The antioxidant effects of blueberries make them incredibly beneficial. Just a handful a day is all it takes to reap the benefits.
Blueberries are exceptionally good for your health and are probably best known for their antioxidant properties. In fact, they are ranked number 1 amongst all other fruits, vegetables, and herbs for having the highest antioxidant levels. While they are tasty baked into breakfast and dessert dishes, their nutrition value is best obtained when eaten raw.
Along with their antioxidant properties, blueberries offer other health benefits such as calming inflammation, protecting cell and nerve tissue, boosting heart and digestive health, and staving off cancers. These effects are due to the phenols, fiber, vitamins and minerals they contain.
Did you know that organically grown antioxidant-rich foods contain higher levels of antioxidants than their non-organically grown counterpart? Blueberries contain a number of phytonutrients that act as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents including anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids, flavonols and other phenols like pterostilbene and resveratrol. These nutrients participate in all of the aforementioned health benefits. Antioxidants boost the immune system, protect various cells and tissues against oxidative stress from free radicals, and also play a part in protecting the cardiovascular and neurological systems against disease processes and neurotoxicity. Free radicals can lead to neurodegenerative diseases in adulthood like dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases due to cell damage. These neuroprotective properties also help to boost cognition and memory.
The cardiovascular protective effects from blueberries are primarily due to the antioxidants and fiber content. Specifically, they act to lower bad LDL cholesterol, increase good HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Vitamin B6 and folate also help prevent a buildup of homocysteine from occurring, which can lead to damaged blood vessels. These effects reduce the risk of heart disease and plaquing of the arteries.
Blueberries have been found to also be protective against the development of cancers, specifically colon cancer. The antioxidant content combined with the contained fiber are particularly at play during this process. The risk of other cancers like breast, esophageal and small intestinal can also be minimized. Another important aspect of intestinal and colon cancer prevention is maintaining gut flora (bacteria) balance. In 2013, Wu et al. of University of Maine found that blueberries have a prebiotic effect, or in other words, feed the good bacteria in your gut and acts to provide balance.
Even your bones benefit from the nutrients in blueberries. Ample amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and vitamin K all help to build and maintain strong bones.
One minor downside to blueberries is the high amount of salicylates they contain. Salicylates, the active ingredient in aspirin also found naturally in many plants, can cause side effects in some people who are sensitive to them. In the case of a salicylate reaction, you may experience a rash, headache, nausea, vomiting, reflux, bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation.
Possible short-term side effects
- reaction to salicylates
Ingredients to be aware of
- provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants
- protects the cells and tissues
- minimizes the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases
- boosts cognitive function and memory
- fights inflammation throughout the body
- boosts the immune system
- protects against heart disease
- lowers bad ldl cholesterol
- raises good hdl cholesterol
- lowers blood pressure
- balances the gut bacteria and promotes good digestion
- decreases the risk of developing cancers
- strengthens bone
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Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS | 10-04-2016
Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
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