Blueberries are among the most popular berries in the world, second only to strawberries. The blueberry plant is a perennial flowering shrub that has indigo-colored berries, which are what we know as blueberries. The plant is native to North America, though it is also found in Europe, Asia, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
Blueberries are said to have among the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits and vegetables, with flavonoids as the major antioxidant compounds present. These antioxidants aid in protecting the body from free radicals which can cause aging and some diseases such as cancer.
Blueberries may be cultivated in farms or picked from semi-wild or wild bushes.
Benefits of blueberries
Maintaining strong and healthy bones
Blueberries contain essential nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorous, magnesium and vitamin K, which are responsible for building bone strength and structure. Vitamin K improves calcium absorption in the body, which reduces the risk of bone fracture, while iron and zinc help maintain the strength of bones and joints.
Importance to the cardiovascular system
Blueberries contain vitamins C and B6, potassium, and folate, all which help keep the heart in shape. The lack of cholesterol and the fiber in blueberries that lowers the cholesterol in the blood are factors that support the heart’s health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B6 and folate in blueberries prevent the accumulation of homocysteine, a compound which damages blood vessels, leading to heart diseases if in excess in the body.
A regular blueberry intake has been shown to help maintain a healthy blood pressure in the body. They also lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures in those with high blood pressure.
Blueberries have a high fiber content which aids in healthy digestion and helps prevent constipation.
According to studies, consumption of blueberries slows down cognitive decline while improving memory and motor function, especially in the elderly. This is because the antioxidants in this berries protect the body from oxidative stress, which would otherwise accelerate the brain’s aging process.
Blueberries have a high antioxidants capacity, one of the highest among all fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants help protect the cells from getting damaged by free radicals. They also help slow or ward off some types of cancer, such as lung, prostate, pancreatic and colon cancer, reduce inflammation in the body, and inhibit the growth of tumors in the body.
The folate found in them helps in DNA synthesis and repair, hence preventing mutations in the DNA from forming cancer cells.
Benefits to the skin
The various vitamins and minerals help restore hormone balance in the body, therefore counteracting and reducing acne. Blueberry extracts are becoming popular ingredients in skin care products all over the world due to this. The resveratrol helps reduce any damage to the skin due to overexposure to the sun.
Weight and fat loss
Blueberries contain catechins which have a role in burning belly and abdominal fat to help in weight loss. According to research, regular blueberry intake, which leads to higher catechins levels, increases abdominal fat loss by about 77%.
Blueberries and their benefits in energy drinks
Apart from the health benefits to the body, blueberries are used in energy drinks as they help reduce damage to the muscles due to strenuous exercise. Arduous exercises can lead to soreness, fatigue, and damage to the muscles partly due to inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in blueberries help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, hence accelerating muscle recovery after a particularly difficult workout.
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How blueberries work in your body
Various components and nutrients in blueberries all aid in maintaining a healthy body. The antioxidants help in protecting the cells from damage by free radicals, the high fiber content helps maintain a healthy digestive tract, and the various nutrients in blueberries, such as folate, calcium, iron and potassium all have their roles to play in your body.
Sources of blueberries
These berries can be consumed as raw and unprocessed fruits, processed as IQF (individually quick frozen) fruit, juice or puree. The processed berries are used to make blueberry-flavored ice cream due to their benefits to the body, and their good flavor. Dried berries are used in various products such as pastries, including pancakes and pies, and blueberry wine.
They are also used in energy drinks due to their benefits to the body, and to add a sweet flavor to the drinks.
For those unable to get the raw, dried or processed versions of blueberries, there are blueberry supplements in the market that work just as well.
How much blueberries should you take per day?
The recommended blueberry extract intake is 5.5-11g, with the intake on the higher end being more effective. This intake is approximately equal to 60-120 fresh blueberries from the tree. For supplements, a 500-1000mg daily intake is recommended.
Side effects of blueberries
For those with underlying health conditions or are taking some prescription medicines, blueberries may have some side effects. You should, therefore, check with your doctor before having them as part of your diet.
The high amount of salicylates in blueberries can cause allergies to those who are salicylates-intolerant, such as rashes, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and bloating. Eating little amounts of these berries can take care of this problem, easing some of the discomforts.
If you are generally healthy and eat them in moderation, blueberries have no side effects on your body, and instead have a myriad of health benefits to your body.