I love blueberries! This tiny fruit is one that deserves a lot of respect! First, it is a delicious fruit just by itself! I prefer to eat this fruit all by itself, and in fact, I will discuss why you may not want to add it to your yogurt, your dairy or nut milks, etc. a little later. I will explain share some fun facts, what some of the research studies have revealed and what makes them so powerful, how you may want to try to include more in your diet, plus a couple of videos.
Fun Facts About This Tiny Blue Fruit
- is the official state fruit of New Jersey
- is the official berry of Nova Scotia
- is the second most popular berry in the United States (after strawberry)
- has been commercially produced in North America only since early in the 20th century
90% of the world’s blueberry production is from North America, with 25% of the production being from Maine. If all of the these berries produced in one year here in North America were to be spread out in a single layer, they would cover a four-lane highway from New York to Chicago!
While these are fun facts, it really is amazing when you learn of the other amazing properties of this tiny, dark-blue fruit. Let me explain in more detail.
What Does the Research Show?
This University of Michigan study suggests that a diet inclusive of blueberries (freeze-dried and ground into a powder) may help prevent the conditions that can lead to diabetes and may help to eliminate belly fat.
This was a 90-day study performed on a species of rat that is normally severely overweight. They were split into two groups – one on a low-fat diet and one on a high-fat diet. These two groups were fed a diet of the powder mixed in with their diet (as 2% of their total diet), and there was a control group of rats being fed no powder.
While there was evidence that this diet did reduce the risks of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease, there were greater health benefits evidenced in the rats fed the low-fat diet.
The rats that consumed the low-fat diet showed many positive signs of benefit, including lower cholesterol, lower triglycerides, decreased abdominal fat, lower body weight, lower total fat mass, and evidence of a reduction in their liver mass.
Many Americans today are suffering from metabolic syndrome, which results from eating a high fat diet and will cause obesity. Metabolic syndrome (also known as Syndrome X) is classified as a group of body symptoms such as elevated blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, excess abdominal fat, and high blood sugar. These combine for a triple threat of elevated risk of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
While the findings from this study are very promising, there will need to be further research in the future.
In another very small study performed at the University of Cincinnati, results showed an improvement in memory as evidenced with two memory tests. These 16 elderly participants (average age of 78) were selected due to their age-related cognitive impairment. Nine of the participants were asked to drink two cups of 100% wild blueberry juice for the duration of 12 weeks, while the control group of seven participants were given a placebo beverage with no juice for the same 12 weeks.
The juice drinkers showed improved performance on two memory tests by the end of the 12 weeks. Even better – they did not gain any weight!
Yet another study in New Zealand in 2009 showed that polyphenols from the blueberry in vitro suppressed muscle cell damage resultant from oxidative stress. This does suggest that active compounds in the fruit may help to alleviate muscle cell damage as a result of exercise.
“In our study, blueberry fruits were suggested as good candidates to combat muscle oxidative damage although further investigations especially at an in vivo level are needed,” wrote the researchers, led by Dr Roger Hurst from New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research.
Of course, this does need to be tested further in vivo, as the in vitro tests do not take into consideration the bio-availability of the compounds in the fruits when consumed. “Much further research using human intervention studies is warranted to fully understand the implication of the findings reported here with our in vitro evaluations,” wrote the researchers. “Bioavailability concerns also make it difficult to evaluate if the doses used in this and many other published in vitro studies are appropriate.”
What Makes Them So Powerful?
The active polyphenol antioxidants in the berry is likely responsible for it’s benefits. Polyphenols are a certain group of chemical substances that are present in plants, and are characterized by the presence of more than one building block (phenol) per molecule. Some types of polyphenols you may have heard of are tannins, lignins, and flavanoids. Flavanoids consist of thousands of compounds, including isoflavanoids, flavonols, flavones, anthocyanidins, and catechins, to name a few.
It is these polyphenols found in higher concentrations in the skins of certain fruits and vegetables that are present in berries, cacao, coffee beans, yerba mate, grapes/wine, olive oil, other fruits and vegetables.
One of these polyphenols, anthocyanins, which provide the rich color of the fruit or vegetable. The blueberry is fairly high in anthocyanins at a range of 110 to 260 mg per 100 grams. Click here for the full report.
Eat Those Blueberries!
I am now including at least one serving per day of blueberries in my diet, along with an assortment of other foods rich in polyphenols. Of course, it is easy to get plenty of these berries during the summer, and be sure to eat only organic, as these are highly treated with pesticides and herbicides. Check out there nutrition data here:
During the winter months, you can purchase these frozen (no sugar added) – be sure to check that the berries move freely in the freezer bag before purchasing as this ensures they were never thawed and re-frozen.
Another way I am going to ensure we are getting enough of these in our diet is to experiment with an organic dried wild blueberry powder that can be purchased at many online stores. I will try to make juice with this and consume it just plain.
I used to consume them in my morning yogurt or nut milk smoothie, but I have read that the protein in the yogurt, dairy, or nut milks may interfere with the antioxidant benefit of the fruit. Since reading about this here, I have been eating my blueberries completely solo or with other fruits in a salad. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended that you eat blueberries either one hour before or two hours after consumption of protein.
I hope you have learned enough to understand the possible health benefits of this powerful fruit, as well as a few fun facts! You may also want to check out the videos below for additional information.