The Top 5 Ways Blueberries Improve Your Health, According to an RD
Summer is officially blueberry season, which means there’s a bounty of nature’s sweet little treasures to make into pie, crisp, jam, or eaten plain by the handful. But did you know that blueberries are not only delicious, but a total health powerhouse?
From a dietary standpoint, blueberries have always been a good choice because of their natural sweetness and fiber content, making them a much better treat to reach for than something with added sugar. They are also available year round in grocery stores, making it easy to make incorporating them into your diet a daily habit. When possible, though, try eating locally grown, in-season fruit for an extra dimension of tartness and an almost perfume-like aroma.
It doesn’t take much convincing to consume more blueberries, but as it turns out, the small but mighty fruits have a wide array of health benefits ranging from amping up your memory to fighting cancer. We got the scoop on the top five ways eating blueberries can improve your health from Jenn LaVardera, RD, a registered dietitian and Naturipe Nutrition Expert.
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Not only is that handful of blueberries in your oatmeal delicious, but it could be significantly contributing to the health of your brain. “Blueberries are packed with anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid antioxidant compound that gives these berries their blue color,” says LaVardera. Research has shown that the anti-inflammatory anthocyanin in blueberries can help reverse age-related decline in brain function. In one study, nine older adults were given wild blueberry juice for 12 weeks and showed improvement in memory tests. In an animal research study, a blueberry-enriched diet was shown to help improve memory among older rats.
Lowering Blood Pressure.
Incorporating a cup of blueberries per day can significantly help with high blood pressure. A study from Florida State University found that participants who consumed that amount for eight weeks saw a 5 to 6 percent drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. “This was likely due to the vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients naturally found in blueberries,” explains LaVardera. A cup per day is the perfect amount to sprinkle generously over a bowl of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt with some chopped nuts as a healthy breakfast.
No, it’s not just because eating blueberries in the sunshine makes you happy (although that doesn’t hurt!). “Blueberries are thought to be a natural mood enhancer, and there's research to back it up,” says LaVardera. She points to a 2017 study, which linked consuming blueberries to improved positive mood in children and adults, possibly due to their flavonoid content. The positive effect occurred after two hours of consuming the blueberries, so eat up at breakfast and you may feel yourself perk up by lunch.
Promoting Heart Health.
In addition to the hypertension benefits, LaVardera says there’s no doubt that eating blueberries is good for your heart. The Nurses Health Study launched in 1976 and is one of the largest investigations into heart health and women. Results from 93,600 women showed a clear link between eating foods high in anthocyanins (such as blueberries) and lower risk of heart attack. “Other animal research has confirmed a link between eating anthocyanin-rich foods and lower risk of heart attack,” states LaVardera.
“Blueberries have been shown to fight cancer by blocking inflammation, preventing DNA damage, and killing cancerous cells,” explains LaVardera. She cautions that more research is needed to confirm these effects, but the lab studies are promising for blueberries as cancer-fighting agents.