The blueberry bush (Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus) is a flowering shrub that produces berries with a bluish, purple hue — also known as blueberries. It is closely related to similar shrubs, such as those that produce cranberries and huckleberries. Blueberries are small — around 0.2–0.6 inches (5–16 millimeters) in diameter — and feature a flared crown at the end. They are green in color when they first appear, then deepen to purple and blue as they ripen.
The two most common types are:
- Highbush blueberries: The most common cultivated variety in the US.
- Lowbush or “wild” blueberries: Typically smaller and richer in some antioxidants.
A 1-cup (150-gram) serving of blueberries contains:
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Vitamin C: 24% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 36% of the RDI
- Manganese: 25% of the RDI
- Small amounts of various other nutrients
- They are also about 85% water, and an entire cup contains only 84 calories, with 15 grams of carbohydrates.
That bright blue color of blueberries offers so much more than just a ‘grammable breakfast or snack. A handful of the little blue fruits has some serious health benefits. Everyone knows they’re chock full of antioxidants, but what you might not know is all of the other benefits you can get by adding blueberries to you diet, even some that come from the berry’s hue. Read on for more health benefits of blueberries you can feel good about.
Reduced Blood Pressure
A recent study in the Journal of Gerontology found that adding blueberries to a person’s daily diet can help reduce blood pressure, similar to the effects of blood pressure medication. Researchers concluded that this may be due in part to the anthocyanin—a type of flavanoid that provides antioxidant effects and gives blueberries their bright color.
That anthocyanin we mentioned? It’s also known to reduce inflammation, according to a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. Chronic inflammation can be a cause of cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain types of cancers.
Improved Lung Function
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when anthocyanin was added to one’s diet, it slowed lung-function decline in older adults. Consuming two or more servings of blueberries a week was associated with the slowest rate of annual decline in lung function.
Lowered Heart Attack Risk
With heart attacks on the rise in younger people, eating blueberries may also help lower that risk. Research found that eating blueberries and strawberries three times or more during the week reduced the risk of heart attack 34 percent, according to a study by the American Heart Association.
Better Recovery and Muscle Repair
The antioxidants in blueberries can help reduce inflammation and accelerate muscle repair after workouts, according to a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Adding them to a postworkout protein smoothie is a surefire way to reap the rewards.
Improved Brain Function
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that adding blueberry juice to the diet of older adults improved memory recall and reduced depression symptoms.
Additionally, a study published in the Annals of Neurology found that the flavonoids in blueberries were associated with delays in cognitive aging. Adding at least one serving of blueberries a week to their diet slowed cognitive decline in older adult women by two and a half years.
Reduced Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating one cup (150 grams) of blueberries daily reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 percent, especially in those who already are at risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. This is likely due in part to the all-powerful anthocyanin.