You've heard of them, you likely love them (as I do), and today, you're going to find out why you should be incorporating blueberries into your diet as often as possible (while they're in season).
First of all, did you know that fruits and vegetables tend to get their color from specific nutrients? Vitamin A (beta-carotene) most often produces the color orange, as seen in carrots, cantaloupe, and pumpkin, while lycopene the color red, as seen in tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, and persimmon. The same goes for blueberries, who get their beautiful blue hue from a plant compound called anthocyanin.
An-tho-cyan-ins are a powerful class of nutrients, studied for their effect on improving vision, reducing cancer cell growth and tumor formation, protecting against cardiovascular disease, and inhibiting adipose tissue growth even when fed a high-fat diet.
Once consumed through blue and purple foods, anthocyanins scavenge the body for free radicals, and neutralize them before they can cause harm to other cells or tissues around the body.
Free radicals are atoms which do not have a "full outer shell" - meaning that they are missing electrons in their electrical "cloud," causing them to be unpredictable and unstable. In an effort to become stable, free radicals react quickly with other molecules in the body, often causing harm in their wake, known as "oxidative damage."
Oxidative damage has been recognized as the major cause of aging, wrinkles, and ultimately chronic disease. It has also been linked to diabetes, auto-immune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia, cataracts, Parkinson's Disease, hair loss, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
While some amount of oxidative damage is a natural part of existing (exercising, digesting, stressful events, and environmental toxins all cause varying amounts of oxidative damage, and are somewhat unavoidable in today's life), eating a diet rich in antioxidants is critical to help neutralize the majority of reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) before they can cause significant harm to our biological processes.
Now that we're all caught up on our biochemistry, let's dig in!
In addition to their potent concentration of free-radical-fighting anthocyanins, blueberries have been noted for a whole host of other beneficial health-promoting properties, including:
Regulate blood pressure
Improve vision (+ night vision)
Skin health (vitamin C is required for collagen formation)
Immune health (vitamin C + antioxidants)
Regulate digestion (3.5g of fiber / cup)
Regulate blood sugar & improve insulin sensitivity (low glycemic index)
Improve short-term memory
Reduce risk / slow the rate of cognitive decline
If these effects sound like reason enough for you to consider consuming blueberries on a regular basis, as they have for me, let me just lecture you on one more topic.
Anytime we consume the skin of a fruit, vegetable, nut, seed, or grain, we should be looking for the organic option. For those of you skeptics, trust me, berries get sprayed significantly more than most other products due to the increase in predators, and you do not want to be consuming harmful pesticides and fungicides alongside your healthful snack.
Also, as a species we are meant to eat food seasonally. Food intolerances can occur when we repeatedly expose our bodies and digestive tracts to the exact same foods over years or decades with no breaks. I would recommend eating blueberries as much as possible while they're in abundance (spring-summer), and only on occasion during the rest of the year (once/week or less) to reduce the impact that food travel has on the environment.
My favorite ways to consume blueberries, in case you're in need of variety, are listed below.
Baked into scones (especially low sugar sprouted spelt scones!)
Sprinkled onto yogurt bowls, smoothie bowls, and oat bowls
Covered in 70%+ dark chocolate (microwave your favorite chocolate until melted, and stir in berries, spread out onto parchment paper to dry and store in the refrigerator for a treat!)
Tossed into salads
Muddled into cocktails, mocktails, or sparkling water
BY THE HANDFUL
Well friends, that's it for today. I hope this post inspires you to pop a few of these delicious blue berries into your mouth soon (especially if you're reading this in August-September, when whatever is left of the late summer harvest provides almost candy-like bluebs).
Wishing you well,
1. Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach. (here)
2. What's New and Beneficial About Blueberries. (here)
3. How do free radicals affect the body? (here)
4. Dual action of highbush blueberry proanthocyanidins on Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans and the host inflammatory response. (here)