Blueberries are called a “superfood” because they contain antioxidants that help protect cell damage that lead to ageing and various serious illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and alzheimers. Other fruits like strawberries and pomegranates have similar antioxidant properties as blueberries, so if you don’t enjoy blueberries, there are alternatives. Blueberries are traditionally a summer fruit, but with modern cultivation techniques and cross country transportation, it is now possible to have fresh tasting blueberries all year round.
Blueberries taste tart, sour and a little sweet, with very low fruit sugar content. The berries can be dark red, deep violet to indigo in colour, depending on ripeness. It is a small berry, usually less than half an inch in diameter. These berries are easy and convenient to prepare and eat. They don’t need to be peeled or cooked, and can be eaten right off the bush. The size, texture and colour of the fruit makes it an attractive complement to baked goods, porridge, sauces, jams, and smoothies. They are fun to eat for children. Mixed in with the morning porridge or yogurt, blueberries add something for the mouth to bite.
- Blueberries helps prevent type 2 diabetes
An article published in the British Medical Journal collates different studies done in the UK, US, and Singapore, concludes that eating more blueberries, grapes and apples is linked to the prevention of developing type 2 diabetes. Blueberries eaten three times a week reduces the risk for diabetes by 26% compared to other fruits which reduce risks by only 2%. People who are overweight are at risk of type-2 diabetes. Even if you do not classify as diabetic, it is still possible to be pre-diabetic, where the blood glucose levels are not in normal range but not yet high enough to qualify as diabetes.
Blueberries is one of the safe fruits type 2 and type 1 diabetics can eat because it has a glycemic index below 50. Blueberries score a glycemic index of 40 to 53, a score lower than strawberries and raspberries. Fruits are high in fructose and eating a lot of fruit can actually be harmful for those who are overweight, suffer from diabetes, cancer or heart disease. However, blueberries consumed in moderation, are the exception.
- It helps prevent heart disease
Blueberries, along with strawberries, have anthocyanins which helps prevent the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Blueberries also help regulate normal blood pressure, reduce inflammation, dilate arteries and increase the strength of blood capillaries. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom surveyed 93,000 women between the ages of 25 and 42.
The completed study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that eating three or more servings of strawberries or blueberries a week reduces the risk of heart attacks in women by an astounding 32% compared to women who do not eat blueberries or strawberries or even those who ate diets high in vegetables and other fruits. The effects are so profound that doctors believe eating blueberries and strawberries as a youngster can also help reduce risk for heart disease in older age.
- Blueberries helps cope with mental ageing
Several studies on rats by the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and the University of Houston-Clear Lake, have discovered that antioxidant rich diets extracted from blueberries hinders the increases the NF-kappaB protein, which is believed to cause brain ageing. Old rats high in NF-kappaB levels have poor memory scores and perform badly at learning maze tasks, compared with those with lower levels of the NF-kappaB proteins. It is the researcher’s hope that the blueberry effect on rats will be the same on humans.
- Helps the brain heal from damage
Traumatic brain injuries are potentially devastating to the lives of those who suffer from them. A study by the US National Institute on Ageing Gerontology Research Centre in the United States suggests that blueberries can help reduce damage done by brain injury. Neurological disorders, including ageing related illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, can benefit from a dose of blueberries. It is still unknown how blueberries improve the function of those who suffer brain damage, but it’s undeniable that the fruit does help improve impaired memory and learning ability.
- Protect the body from cancer
A final cure for cancer is yet to be found. Those who seek available treatments find that the medicine for cancer is as bad as the disease. It is still unknown if superfoods like blueberries do indeed prevent cancer or even cure cancer, but many are not waiting around for conclusive evidence for a reason to add blueberries to their diet. It is believed that antioxidants in blueberries mop up cancer forming free radicals in the body. However, there is also debate that the body actually needs free radicals, and a healthy amount of it suppresses cancer growth. This is not to say that blueberries are completely useless in the fight against cancer.
A study done on rats by Rutgers University has found that a compound called pterostilbene in blueberries has cancer fighting properties, in the case of colon cancer. The rats supplemented with blueberries had 57% less precancerous lesions after eight weeks of eating the human equivalent of two blueberry servings a day.
In terms of dietary fibre, nutrients and vitamin C, blueberries offer very little to modest gains. It is also a very small fruit with a tart flavour, not meant to be eaten in large quantities. The main advantage of eating blueberries regularly is to increase antioxidants in the body. For this reason, you get the most health benefits from the fruit by eating it uncooked, as heat diminishes the nutrition of all fruits and vegetables. For such a small fruit, blueberries can impact the body in huge ways, and you only need to eat a handful every day.