Wednesday, October 7, 2015

10 Great Reasons to Add More Blueberries to Your Diet

Berries are some of the best fruits you can eat for overall health and, among them, blueberries are king.

These wonder-berries are believed to have been sacred to Native Americans and were used medicinally as a cough syrup and to fortify the blood.

We’re finally catching on to what the Native Americans knew centuries ago – that blueberries are an amazing superfood with some great healing properties. A low calorie but nutrient dense food, these are one of the fruits you should be eating every day for optimal health.

Keep reading to discover just some of the reasons why.

Packed With Nutritional Benefits

Nutritional BenefitsBefore we get to all of blueberries’ health benefits, let’s have a look at some of the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they contain.

According to NutritionData.com one cup of blueberries has:

  • 84 calories
  • 21 g carbohydrates – 7% RDV
  • 4 g fiber – 14% RDV
  • Vitamin K – 36% RDV
  • Vitamin C – 24% RDV
  • Manganese – 25% RDV
  • Vitamin E – 4% RDV
  • Thiamin – 4% RDV
  • Riboflavin – 4% RDV
  • Vitamin B6 – 4% RDV
  • Copper – 4% RDV
  • No fat
  • No cholesterol

At 35% of your RDV of vitamin K, blueberries are quite a rich source of this fat soluble vitamin. Vitamin K is essential for bones and heart health, and it plays a vital part in other bodily processes.

Evidence suggests vitamin K is an important adjunct to vitamin D, and if you are deficient in one, neither will perform at their best in your body.

Now that we know these berries are bursting with nutrients, let’s have a look at 10 of the amazing things they can do for our physical and mental health.

1. Number One for Antioxidants

antioxidantsIn tests carried out at the USDA Human Nutrition Center, blueberries have been ranked number one in terms of antioxidant activity when compared to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables.

That’s pretty impressive for a tiny berry.

And it’s not just lab tests that show their antioxidant power, dating blueberries has been proven to increase antioxidant activity levels in the body.

Antioxidants are hugely important to get through diet – they protect our cells against damage by free radicals, which can lead to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

In particular, the flavonoid called anthocyanin, which is the pigment that gives blueberries their color, is one of the most potent antioxidants in these berries and is responsible for much of their health benefits.

2. Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Anti-Inflammatory EffectsInflammation is at the root cause of so many of today’s illnesses – from arthritis and Alzheimer’s, to heart disease and cancer.

However, inflammation can be combated in the body by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.

In fact, Dr. Weil, the creator of the diet, lists berries, including blueberries, as one of his top 4 anti-inflammatory foods!

Laboratory studies have found blueberries to have anti-inflammatory properties with both animal and human studies showing similar.

One research study into the effects of blueberries on inflammation divided athletes into two groups. Both groups were told to continue training as normal and follow their usual diet. But only one group was asked to add in 250 grams of blueberries daily.

After six weeks, these athletes were brought in for testing. The blueberry group showed a significant increase in anti-inflammatory markers. They also suffered less inflammation when they consumed the berries immediately before stressing their bodies with exercise.

Next time you’re about to hit the gym, why not try some blueberries before working out and see how they affect your recovery times?

3. Fight Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Fight Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)I’ll bet you thought it was just cranberries that helped cure UTIs.

That’s not surprising – somehow the blueberry gets overlooked here, yet it may be just as effective as its red cousin in relieving this painful ailment.

For those of you who have never had a UTI, symptoms include painful, urgent and/or frequent urination, and are related to kidney infections.

Blueberries contain compounds called tannins, which prevent the bacteria causing UTIs from sticking to cells in the urinary tract.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, large amounts of vitamin C inhibit the growth of some bacteria by acidifying the urine.

As one cup of blueberries contains almost a quarter of your RDV of vitamin C, it may be just another way in which they fight these types of infections.

4. Improve your Memory

Improve your MemoryDid you know that simply eating certain delicious foods can boost your brain power?

It’s true!

And the mighty blueberry is one of those tasty treats.

Oxidative stress can actually contribute to brain aging and memory impairment, so it makes sense that antioxidant-rich foods can offset some of this oxidative damage.

A daily serving of blueberries has been linked to better short-term memory and a reversal of age-related mental decline.

And a six year study of over 16,000 patients found that eating anthocyanidin rich foods like blueberries and strawberries can delay mental aging by up to two and a half years.

5. Blood Sugar Regulation

Blood Sugar RegulationBlueberries contain about 15 g of sugar per cup, which may seem like a lot but it’s the same as a small apple.

That said, its glycemic index (GI) of 40 to 53 is a little on the high side for berries, with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries clocking a GI of mid-30s. Even so, other properties in blueberries may offset their sugar content when it comes to regulating blood sugar levels.

It has been found that 67% of people who drank a blueberry smoothie twice daily for six weeks experienced at least a 10% improvement in insulin sensitivity, compared with just 41% of people in the placebo smoothie group.

And, three servings per week of blueberries, among other fruit, has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to research looking at the diets of more than 187,000 people in the US.

If you drink fruit juice, cut it out and replace it with whole blueberries instead – you could reduce the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes by 33%, says the study.

6. Fight Fat

reduce fatIf you’re looking to lose weight, blueberries are a great food to have on hand. Grab a handful of them instead of reaching for a cookie and they’ll be sure to satisfy your sugar cravings.

Animal studies have even shown that they can help your body fight fat around the belly.

In research presented in 2011 for the American Society for Nutrition, it was found that mice who consumed the most blueberries had a 73% decrease in fat lipids.

Further research by the University of Michigan, into the effect of blueberry enriched meals on fat levels of obese rats, also found that the animals lost fat from their stomachs.

7. Cholesterol Benefits

Cholesterol BenefitsA compound in blueberries, called pterostilbene, is known for its ability to trigger cells to break down fat and cholesterol. Tests on rat liver cells have shown that this compound does, in fact, break down cholesterol effectively.

What’s really amazing is that it actually worked better than the prescription drug ciprofibrate (sold under the name ‘Modalim’), to lower blood fats and cholesterol.

Other studies have proven that the antioxidants in blueberries are linked to reduced levels of oxidized LDL (the bad cholesterol). When LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized, it actually contributes to the development of heart disease.

A simple 50 g serving of blueberries daily has been shown to reduce oxidized LDL by as much as 27% within just eight weeks.

8. Reduce Cancer Risk

reduce cancerAnthocyanins, which are responsible for so many of blueberries great benefits, may also help fight cancer.

Plenty of evidence from various types of laboratory and clinical trials suggest that blueberries, blueberry supplements, and their compounds, may have effective anti-cancer effects.

Some specific types of cancer that blueberries may fight include:

  • Prostate cancer – a University of Illinois study on the effects of blueberries on prostate cancer found the berries may help eliminate free radicals and block tumor cells from forming.
  • Colon cancer – rats with this type of cancer were fed a diet supplemented with pterostilbene (the same compound that lowers cholesterol). After 8 weeks they had 57% fewer pre-cancerous lesions than rats not fed the compound.
  • Oral cancer – blueberries are very high in vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the incidence of premalignant oral lesions in men, by up to 48%.

9. Prevent Osteoporosis

berries bowl blueberriesThe National Osteoporosis Foundation defines osteoporosis as “a disease of the bones that happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both”.

Approximately 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis, so it’s not something to be taken lightly. One of the risk factors for developing osteoporosis is not getting enough vitamin D – which we now know is linked with vitamin K.

Given that blueberries contain high levels of vitamin K, eating them regularly may just help you get your daily dose and ensure both vital vitamins work at optimal levels in your body.

Furthermore, studies on young rats suggest that the polyphenols in blueberries might aid in building strong bones.

The rats who ate food that contained 10% freeze-dried blueberry powder had significantly more bone mass than those whose food didn’t contain the powder.

10. Improve Heart Health

Improve Heart HealthThanks to their high content of anthocyanins, berries such as strawberries and blueberries may reduce the risk of heart disease in women.

A study carried out over 18 years with a massive 93,600 participants showed that the most advantages were gained by those women who ate three or more servings a week.

Other research proves these antioxidants protect the heart by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, while enhancing capillary strength.

Helping to lower blood pressure, one of the leading causes of heart attack and stroke, is another way in which blueberries contribute to cardiovascular health.

Obese patients with metabolic syndrome experienced a 4% to 6% reduction in blood pressure after eating a mere 1.7 oz of blueberries every day for eight weeks.

Another study of postmenopausal women saw similar results. After eating freeze-dried blueberry powder (in amounts equivalent to one cup of fresh berries) per day for 8 weeks, participants saw their blood pressure levels drop by up to 6%.

Which Blueberries are Best?

best blueberriesWild blueberries are said to be the best type you can buy for your health – the wild variety are actually said to surpass their cultivated cousins by 48% in terms of antioxidant power!

If you can’t find wild blueberries or they’re a little too pricey, cultivated blueberries will still bring you a lot of the health benefits listed here.

I always recommend buying organic blueberries if you can – their thin skin means the fruit soaks up a lot of the pesticides sprayed on the conventional variety, which can include up to 52 different pesticide chemicals.

As well as cutting out chemicals, you’ll be increasing your antioxidant intake by buying organic.

Researchers from USDA’s Genetic Improvement of Fruit and Vegetable Laboratory and Rutgers University found that blueberries grown organically had 50% more anthocyanins and 67% more phenolics than the conventionally grown ones.

If you get a good deal on organic berries at the Farmers’ Market then snap them up! You can always freeze them to use in smoothies and oatmeal. According to tests, frozen or dried blueberries contain the same levels of anthocyanin antioxidants as the fresh variety do. A 2014 study even claims that freezing blueberries improves their antioxidant availability.

Whatever way you store them, Dr. Mercola says that powder-like coating on the berries, known as the ‘bloom’, should stay on until just before you eat them.

Wondering How to Add More Blueberries to Your Diet?

how to eatThese berries are one of my favorite snacks, and I like to eat them by the handful. If you need to liven them up, then why not try:

It seems that blueberries certainly live up to their reputation as an all-round superfood.

If you want to gain any of the amazing health benefits listed here, then I’d definitely recommend you enjoy blueberries as part of a balanced diet.

Are you already a fan of blueberries? Or will you be making them a regular feature in your healthy eating routine?

The post 10 Great Reasons to Add More Blueberries to Your Diet appeared first on Nutrition Secrets.

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