Blueberries are perfect in pancakes, superb in smoothies and truly snackable on their own. But besides for their juiciness and versatility, the blue fruit also boasts some serious health benefits.
"Blueberries are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin K and immune-boosting vitamin C," says Jennifer Oikarinen, RD at Banner University Medical Center, Phoenix. Read on to find out how blueberries can support a healthful diet.
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Heart Health Benefits
One potent antioxidant in blueberries, anthocyanin (which gives blueberries their color) may benefit heart health. In fact, the anthocyanin in blueberries may reduce the risk of heart disease by 12 to 15 percent, a June 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found. Study patients who consumed just a single cup of blueberries every day improved their heart function and cholesterol levels.
There's even more evidence that blueberries may benefit cholesterol levels. "There's a lot of talk about what you can do to better manage cholesterol levels, and eating blueberries may be one of the answers," says Amy Gorin, RDN and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition. A November 2013 study published in the Upsala Journal of Medical Science examined people who exercised regularly and found that those who ate blueberries on the days they worked out had higher levels of HDL — the "good" type of cholesterol. These patients also had decreased levels of triglycerides, a type of fat that, when too high, can increase a person's risk for heart disease.
What's more, the fruit may also protect your heart by reducing your blood pressure, which can potentially stave off a stroke, heart attack or heart failure. Consuming about one cup of blueberries daily may improve blood vessel function and decrease blood pressure, according to a report in a July 2019 collection of studies published in the Journal of Gerontology.
Blueberries May Help You Lose Weight
Adding some of the blue fruit to your diet may help you reach your weight-loss goals faster. Eating more blueberries is associated with less weight gain, thanks to the fruit's anthocyanins, a January 2016 study in BMJ found.
Plus, one cup of blueberries provides close to 4 grams of fiber, a nutrient that can help you stay satiated and ward off cravings.
And May Prevent Diabetes
"Eating blueberries may help improve insulin sensitivity, which is important in the prevention of type 2 diabetes," says Gorin. And science agrees: an October 2010 study in The Journal of Nutrition examined adults with obesity who didn't have diabetes but did have insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for diabetes. Half of the adults drank a smoothie containing blueberry powder twice daily (which was equal to about two cups of blueberries) while the other half drank smoothies without the powder. After six weeks, those who drank the blueberry powder smoothies had a greater improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Blueberries Boost Memory, Too
Small but mighty, blueberries may help stave off some of aging's effects. The fruit's high concentration of polyphenols, a class of naturally occurring chemicals with antioxidant properties, contribute to better memory function, according to a study published in the July 2019 collection. After consuming a rich extract of blueberries and grapes for six months, a group of older adults with memory problems performed better on some memory tests.
- Journal of Gerontology: "Polyphenols From Grape and Blueberry Improve Episodic Memory in Healthy Elderly with Lower Level of Memory Performance: A Bicentric Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Blueberries Improve Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Function in Participants With Metabolic Syndrome — Results From a 6-Month, Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial"
- Journal of Gerontology: "Circulating Anthocyanin Metabolites Mediate Vascular Benefits of Blueberries: Insights From Randomized Controlled Trials, Metabolomics, and Nutrigenomics"
- BMJ: "Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Weight Maintenance: Three Prospective Cohorts of 124 086 US Men and Women Followed for up to 24 Years"
- USDA Nutrient Database: "Blueberries, Raw"
- The Journal of Nutrition: "Bioactives in Blueberries Improve Insulin Sensitivity in Obese, Insulin-Resistant Men and Women "