This berry is the king of all berries because it is both sweet and acidic. This berry will help improve your mood. Yes! You’ve guessed it right. We’re talking about blueberries. There is a long list of blueberry benefits. After all, people consider it a wonder food. Before we get into the health benefits of blueberries, let’s look at what makes them so special.
Proper nutrition promotes overall health. Fruits contribute majorly by providing optimum nutrition. A balanced diet is essential at all life stages, including during pregnancy, recovery from illness, and during periods of transition such as pandemics. In addition, fruits often help maintain a healthy body weight. It also reduces the risk of chronic disease and leads to general well-being. Blueberries are one such fruit packed with nutrition.
What is a Blueberry?
The bilberry is a small, dark berry from the heath family. It is delicious and has a vibrant color.
Blueberry refers to the flowering plants in the genus Vaccinium. We can all agree that it’s a great feeling to bite into a blueberry and have the juice explode in your mouth.
Types of Blueberries
There are majorly four types of blueberries:
The scientific name for the common blueberry is Vaccinium corymbosum. This plant typically grows to a bushy height of around six feet. This plant is more of a tree than a shrub. It thrives in USDA zones four through seven.
Vaccinium angustifolium is the scientific name for this plant. These small bushes grow well in many different climates. This blueberry grows well in cold weather and can thrive in zones three through seven.
The half-high blueberry is a hybrid variety that combines the best attributes of lowbush and highbush blueberries. This plant can grow to the size of a shrub or bush.
Vaccinium virgatum is the scientific name for this plant. This cultivar thrives in the southeastern United States. This type of plant is resistant to pests and does well in many environments. It also produces a large quantity of fruit. It is recommended that you plant flowers with two or more different types to ensure pollination. It grows well in USDA zones 7–9.
Blueberries: Nutritional Facts
Half a cup (approx. 80grams) serving of blueberries contains:
- Calories: 42
- Protein: 1 gram
- Sugar: 7 grams
- Fat: Less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 11 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
These berries score 53 on the glycemic index (GI). The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly certain foods can raise blood sugar levels. But that’s not the end of it. There are many additional health benefits to eating blueberries beyond the basic nutrients they provide.
Blueberries contain dietary fiber. Fiber is essential for a healthy digestive system. Apart from this, the blueberry fruit is also an excellent source of various vitamins and minerals, namely:
It is also known as ascorbic acid. The vitamin C in blueberries is essential for healing wounds. It also benefits the body in controlling infections. In addition, it is a powerful antioxidant. Collagen is a fibrous protein in connective tissues of the body that is necessary for the creation of collagen.
It is essential for the growth of all bodily tissues and organs. These organs include the heart, lungs, kidneys, and skin. It also helps with the production of sebum, which can help keep skin and hair moist.
Vitamin K is important for blood clotting and bone building. It helps make various proteins needed for these processes. One of them is called prothrombin. Prothrombin is a protein that uses vitamin K in order to help the blood clotting process in the body. Osteocalcin is a protein that requires vitamin K to produce healthy bone tissue.
Manganese helps with the metabolism of various things in the human body, such as amino acids, cholesterol, carbohydrate, and glucose. It not only helps with bone formation but also blood clotting and hemostasis. The benefits of blueberries extend to the whole body, as they are rich in both manganese and vitamin K.
Antioxidants are genuinely the magic nutrient in the blueberry. There are numerous benefits to taking Bilberry supplements, including anti-aging, enhancing vision, and strengthening heart muscles. AMD, or age-related macular degeneration, is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in adults over 60, and bilberry supplements can help prevent it. The elderly can benefit from antioxidants in blueberries by improving their eyesight and skin.
Blueberries also contain iron, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.
Proven Health Benefits of Blueberry
It reduces the risks of heart disease.
Blueberries can lower LDL cholesterol levels. LDL is a type of cholesterol that can accumulate in arteries and cause them to narrow. Coronary artery disease is a serious heart condition. According to a study, consuming one cup of blueberries per day can reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 15%.
This fruit also helps in preventing cancer. Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the body and may also help prevent cancer. It also increases the smooth blood flow in the arteries. Blueberries have a large variety of anthocyanins, making them the superior type of berry.
The blueberry’s vibrant color is also due to anthocyanin. This fruit also eliminates free radicals from the blood and prevents various diseases.
Blueberries improve insulin sensitivity.
Natural substances called flavonoids may help improve glucose metabolism in people with diabetes. Obese people who have insulin resistance may improve their condition by taking flavonoids. Blueberries may help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Blueberry also positively affects high-fat diet(HFD) induced obesity. Blueberry Polyphenol Extract (PPE) has been shown to prevent weight gain and improve lipid metabolism. Thus blueberries are famous as a superfood. They are both healthy and delicious.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a medical condition that affects a large number of people worldwide. The anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties of blueberries may help to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. So eating blueberries is helpful in boosting metabolism.
Blueberry Extract’s Anti-Cancer Power
As detailed in the November 2010 issue of Life Extension Magazine®, diabetics are at a higher risk for a number of different cancers, including those of the breast, liver, colon, pancreas, endometrium (uterine lining), kidney, and possibly other tissues.16-18 Just as the anti-diabetic drug metformin has been shown to be a potent anti-cancer agent, blueberry extracts are emerging as powerful chemopreventive interventions as well.
There have been many studies done on the effects of blueberry anthocyanins and other flavonoids on cancer cells. These studies have shown that these substances are very effective at neutralizing reactive oxygen species. ROS (reactive oxygen species) can cause cancer in healthy cells by damaging cell structure and DNA. Studies using cancer cell lines in the laboratory have shown that anthocyanins are effective in neutralizing harmful ROS.
Researchers have discovered that blueberry anthocyanins combat cancer development in three distinct ways:
- They inhibit the creation of new blood vessels essential to tumor growth (angiogenesis).
- They impede the spread of tumor cells to different locations in the body (metastasis).
- They stimulate cellular maturation, or differentiation, into less injurious or malignant forms.
Pre-clinical studies have confirmed these effects. Cancer models show that blueberry polyphenols can reduce tumor growth or prevent it entirely. These findings suggest that mixed berry preparation can help to block esophageal cancer in rats, that pterostilbene can help to inhibit colon cancer in rats, and that it can also help to protect against skin cancer-causing UVB ultraviolet radiation and DNA damage in mice skin.
The researchers were investigating whether a nutritional approach could be effective in treating a common type of tumor seen in infants, known as endothelial cell neoplasms. The control group of mice were given injections of a cell line that is known to cause skin tumors. They were also fed a standard liquid orally. Mice that were injected with a tumor-causing cell line were also given a liquid feeding that contained a blueberry extract.
The size of the tumors decreased and the survival rate increased in the group that was treated with blueberry extract compared to the group that did not receive the treatment. This difference was more pronounced at higher doses of the extract. The animals that received more blueberry extract had a bigger reduction in tumor size than those that got less. The molecular and biochemical assays showed that the animals treated with the extract had less oxidative stress. The study found that the compound had greater antioxidant activity, could inhibit tumor-signaling pathways, and diminish proliferation of the type of blood vessel cells that lead to uncontrolled tumor growth.
Other studies have shown that blueberries and other anthocyanins are able to stop the uncontrolled growth of tumor cells in tissue culture. In particular, they induce apoptosis or programmed cell death. Different studies have found that blueberries may help to reduce the growth of tumors in animals with esophageal, colon, lung, and skin cancer.
Chemoprevention in Humans
A group of European researchers recently reported on polyphenols and other compounds found in blueberries and other fruits in relation to tumor risk. Using a similar study design, these researchers have compared the relative risk for colorectal cancers in large patient groups with and without tumor growth in retrospective case-control studies.
The study by Rossi and colleagues used a detailed food-frequency questionnaire which was used to extrapolate the average intakes of polyphenols, such as those found in blueberries and other fruits, by using the USDA nutrient and food-composition databases.
The researchers looked at the diets of people with cancer and compared them to people without cancer to see if there was a correlation between cancer and polyphenol intake. The researchers concluded that the polyphenols found in blueberries and other fruits may help to protect against these cancers.
Studies in laboratories and with animals have shown that blueberry extract is effective in fighting triple-negative human breast cancer cell lines, which are among the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. In the lab, blueberry extracts prevented cancer cells from spreading by blocking certain cell signaling pathways. Blueberry extracts have been shown to reduce tumor weight and proliferation, as well as increase cancer cell death, in an animal model of human breast cancer.27
The anti-cancer benefits of blueberries are thought to be due to their high levels of antioxidants. The scientists found that blueberries and other berries, along with pomegranates, had the highest cellular antioxidant activity. They suggest that there would be a decrease in oxidative stress if people consumed more fruits, such as blueberries, and this might lower the chance of developing cancer.
Berry polyphenols have the ability to prevent mutations that can lead to cancer by protecting genomic DNA integrity. Berry extracts not only fight oxygen free radicals but also have anti-angiogenic effects and inhibit the expression of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kB). NF-kB is a factor that turns on genes involved in inflammation and cancer.
Who Shouldn’t Eat Blueberries, and Why?
Although blueberries are usually a healthy food, we must keep a few things in mind while eating them. Everybody is different. If the body experiences hives, swelling, or other similar symptoms, it is because the immune system is reacting to a specific protein. This means that the body is allergic to that particular food or nutrient. Food allergies are common. Taking too much allergy medication can cause some severe problems. After all, excess of anything can be harmful.
The benefits of blueberry polyphenols for people with diabetes were first supported by scientific evidence over 80 years ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association. She argued that they were the closest thing to a “cure” for diabetes known to modern science at the time. Yet mainstream medicine has ignored this natural intervention. Polyphenols in blueberries may help improve conditions associated with metabolic syndromes, such as high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, adverse lipid profiles, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Metabolic syndrome raises the risk for a broad range of cancers. It is encouraging that blueberry polyphenols might help protect against cancer.