Superfood has become something of an overused term in recent years with every new food or variation of it receive the tag when it is in and then being detached from it when the facts fall flat. One food that definitely qualifies as a superfood are blueberries and there are plenty of good reasons to get them into your diet immediately – here are just a few.
Blueberries nutrition facts
The blueberry is a perennial flowering plant that has bluish-purple berries and is part of the same family as cranberries and bilberries. The plant comes from North America and is known found across Asia, African and Europe, with many grow your own fans enjoying growing their own little crops of these plants. There are two common types of the plant and several subspecies – highbush blueberries are the most commonly grown type while lowbush blueberries are often known as wild blueberries, tend to be smaller in size and are richer in antioxidants.
Blueberries are the most nutritionally dense berry and this is why they are consistently listed as a superfood. A single cup of 148 grams of blueberries contains:
- Fibre – 4 grams
- Vitamin C – 24% RDA
- Vitamin K – 36% RDA
- Manganese – 25% RDA
- Various other nutrients
The whole cup only contains 84 calories and has just 15 grams of carbohydrates while each berry is made up of 85% water so also helps with hydration levels.
Benefits of blueberries
Blueberries have one of the highest amounts of antioxidants of any commonly consumed fruit or vegetable. Antioxidants in blueberries are called flavonoids and one group of these, called anthocyanins, are one of the main reasons that there are so many health benefits to blueberries. Flavonoids are what give fruits their vivid colours and have a big benefit to the anti-inflammatory and immune systems. They are also connected with combating cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative conditions.
A condition called oxidative DNA damage is one of the things thought to cause a host of problems in our bodies and most get worse as we get older. Because blueberries have lots of antioxidants in them, they can help combat this damage and neutralise free radicals, the means that this damage takes place. One four week study showed that when 168 participants drank a litre of blueberry and apple juice every day, their level of oxidative DNA damage from free radicals was reduced by 20%.
Another problem that comes from oxidative damage is that bad cholesterol or LDL lipoproteins build up in the system and are a leading cause of heart disease. The oxidants in blueberries are connected with reducing the levels of bad cholesterol with a 50 gram serving having as much as 27% reduction over an eight week period.
3. Blood pressure
Eating blueberries has also been connected with a reduction in blood pressure, especially in anyone overweight. 50 grams a day over an eight week period found a reduction of 4-6% in blood pressure and similar studies have noted the same kind of effect in post-menopause women.
4. Improve brain function
The problems with oxidative damage can even effect brain function. Animal studies have shown that the antioxidants in the berries can accumulate in spots that are connected with intelligence and can interact directly with neurons. Other studies have shown the potential for similar results in humans. A six year study of over 16,000 elderly participants discovered that eating blueberries and strawberries could delay cognitive aging by over two years.
5. Good for diabetics
Diabetics are always conscious of the amount of sugar in any fruit as it can be naturally high. A cup of blueberries has around the same sugar as a small apple but the other benefits mean that it is worth the sugar. Those anthocyanins can affect glucose metabolism with both the juice and extract from the berries working on this.
6. Beat water infections
Women in particular can suffer with water infections or problems in the urinary tract and these can be quite serious. Cranberry juice is known to help combat these and so too are blueberries, which are in the same family and have many of the save active substances. Called anti-adhesives, they stop bacteria binding to the bladder.
7. Help bones
Bones require several substances to remain healthy, with calcium being one of the most famous. Others are iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese and zinc as well as vitamin K and all of these are present in blueberries in different quantities. Iron and zinc in particular help to strengthen bones and also joints while vitamin K helps with calcium intake.
8. Boosting the skin
Collagen is the stuff that skin uses to support itself and it needs vitamin C to deal with environmental damage such as sunlight, pollution and smoke. It also helps the skin look smooth and have a better overall texture. Blueberries are high in vitamin C.
A word of warning
While blueberries are packed full of goodness, they are no substitute for medication. If you take any blood thinners such as Warfarin, you should also talk to your doctor before increasing your intake of vitamin K as this plays a part in blood clothing and can interfere with medication.