Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the genus Vaccinium, which also includes cranberries and bilberries. Native to North America, blueberries can be found growing in many areas of the United States and Canada.
Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from 10 cm to 4 m tall; the smaller species are known as “lowbush blueberries”, and the larger species are “highbush blueberries”.
Blueberries are also come in different colors, ranging from blue to dark blue to purple-black and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the surface, which serves as a protective layer. Cultivated blueberries are typically mildly sweet, while those that grow wild have a more tart and tangy flavor.
Nutrition Facts for Blueberries
Blueberries are among the most nutrient dense berries. They are extremely rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. In fact, a one-cup serving of blueberries provides 24% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C, 36% of the RDA of vitamin K, and 25% of the RDA of manganese.
Blueberries are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and are packed with phytochemicals, such as anthocyanins, phenolic acids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that help protect the body against various diseases, like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Here are the nutrition facts for 1 cup (148 grams) of blueberries :
- Calories: 84.4
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Carbohydrate: 21.4 g
- Protein: 1.1 g
- Fiber: 3.6 g
- Vitamin A: 79.9 IU
- Vitamin C: 14.4 mg
- Calcium: 8.9 mg
- Magnesium: 8.9 mg
- Phosphorus: 17.8 mg
Health Benefits of Blueberries
1. Prevent cancer
Blueberries contain various phytochemicals, which are powerful antioxidants that protect your cells from free radical damage.
Research suggests that the antioxidants may inhibit tumor growth and help ward off various cancer cells, including cancers of breast, intestine, prostate, and stomach .
Another lab studies published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that phenolic compounds in blueberries can inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation.
2. Improve memory
Blueberry consumption has been shown to improve memory and brain function.
In animal studies, researchers have found that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger ones .
Another study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that blueberry supplementation improved memory function in older adults . Similar effects have also been found in children aged 7-10 .
3. Reduce heart disease risk
Blueberries are high in anthocyanins and fiber content, which are known to protect against heart disease.
According to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, regular consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32 percent in young and middle-aged women.
Moreover, the fiber content helps to reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
4. Lower blood pressure
Some studies have shown that daily blueberry intake can reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A 2015 study, for example, found that daily blueberry consumption for eight weeks resulted in lower blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women .
Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition reported that blueberry supplementation led to significant decrease in blood pressure and oxidized LDL cholesterol in obese men and women with metabolic syndrome .
5. Control blood sugar levels
Blueberry has a low glycemic index, which makes it a good option for diabetics. In addition, research suggests that anthocyanins in blueberries can improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn can lower blood sugar levels .
6. Reduce inflammation
Blueberries have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, possibly due to its anthocyanins.
A 2014 test-tube study even found that the polyphenols found in blueberries helped reduce the activity of several markers of inflammation .
Similarly, an animal study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology also found that blueberry extract was effective in reducing swelling in rat paws .
7. Improve eyesight
Blueberries are an excellent source of vitamin A, which is necessary for healthy vision. They also contain eye-healthy carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to lower the risks of developing eye problems and promote overall eye health.
8. Prevent urinary tract infection (UTI)
In petri-dish studies, wild blueberry extracts inhibited the growth of the main bacteria responsible for UTI .
9. Support digestion
Since blueberries are rich in fiber, they can help to relieve constipation and keep your digestive system healthy.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that people who consumed a wild blueberry drink for six weeks saw an increased concentration of gut microbiota crucial for gut health . So, snacking on blueberries regularly could provide a huge relief for your digestive system.
10. Promote bone health
Blueberries contain vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese, which are all necessary for strong bones. The polyphenols in blueberries also help in building bone mass.
A 2013 study found that rats supplemented with 10% whole blueberry (BB) powder had a greater increased bone mass than rats that did not receive the blueberry powder .
11. Help in weight loss
Blueberries are rich in fiber and low in calories, which make them ideal foods for those who are looking to lose weight.
In addition, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, which have been found to have beneficial effects for obese rats .
12. Ease depression symptoms
Another benefit of consuming blueberries is that it keeps depression at bay. According to a 2016 study, consuming blueberries can help reduce the genetic and biochemical drivers behind depression and suicidal tendencies linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .
Previous research also reports that a blueberry-enriched diet can increase levels of serotonin in the brain, which might help alleviate depression.
How to Select and Store Blueberries
Be sure to choose blueberries that are plump, firm and have a uniform hue colored with a whitish bloom. Avoid blueberries that look dull in color and are soft in texture, as this may indicate that they are damaged or moldy.
Blueberries should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week. Always check berries before storing and remove any damaged berries to prevent the spread of mold. Blueberries are highly perishable so do try to consume them as soon as possible.
Blueberries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries, then put the berries in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer. Frozen blueberries will keep for a year at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).