August 21, 2015 By Lee Sandwith
Description & history
Blueberries are often touted for their powerful nutritional punch, with a strong emphasis on their antioxidants (1).
They stem from the Cyanococcus section of the Vaccinium genus and are relatives of cranberries and bilberries (2). The blueberry plant ranges in size from mere inches to several feet, and the leaves vary from deciduous, evergreen, ovate, and lanceolate (3).
Before blueberries became widely popular, Native Americans are said to have enjoyed these delectable fruits for their sweet taste and multiple health benefits (4).
However, although one of the few fruits native to North America, these luscious berries weren’t widely eaten until about 1916 (5).
In fact, blueberries were thought to be resistant to domestic farming until, a century ago, farmers in New Jersey created a new hybrid blueberry, the highbush blueberry.
From the 1940s to 1960s, blueberries spread from New Jersey to several other states, and by the 1970s, the blueberry was a favoured summertime treat. In the U.S., they even have their national month: July, which is a great time to indulge in some blueberry-inspired recipes.
Today, blueberries are widely cultivated across the world including the U.S., Canada, South America, New Zealand, Australia and parts of Asia (6).
Blueberries are the ideal low-calorie, sweet treat as they are super tasty and deliver a huge nutritional payload (7).
Here’s a breakdown of the nutritional benefits and top vitamins and minerals per serving of blueberries, (1 cup, 148 grams): (8)
- Calories: 84 kcal
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 21 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Dietary fibre: 4 grams, 14% of the RDA
- Vitamin K: 36% of the RDA
- Manganese: 25% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 24% of the RDA
The deterioration of our bodies is a natural process and as we age, the chances of the development of degenerative illnesses, such as cancer, increase (10).
Amazingly, some studies have shown that just half a cup of blueberries per day is all you need to reap the cancer-fighting benefits (16).
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Eating blueberries can also help prevent and treat Urinary Tract Infection (UTI); infections caused by microbes, such as bacteria, overcoming the body’s defenses in the urinary tract (17).
The natural antioxidants in blueberries can ease inflammation, soreness and discomfort of a urinary tract infection by fighting that harmful bacteria build-up. In particular, studies have shown positive effects on the prevention and treatment of UTI in women (18).
However, if you’re looking for those sort of medicinal benefits, a normal serving of fresh blueberries may not be sufficient. If you’re looking for quick results with maximum benefits, you may be better opting for 100% blueberry juice to get a concentrated dose of those awesome antioxidants (19).
In terms of credible UTI studies, cranberries seem to be the more commonly researched with some studies suggesting that two doses of cranberry juice per day can provide protection over a 24 hour period (20).
Improved memory and brain function
As well as their antioxidants, blueberries also boast a bunch of vitamins and minerals needed for optimal brain function.
But it’s the flavonoids – such as anthocyanin – found within blueberries which are of most interest with lots of emerging studies suggesting that there may be a wide range of brain related benefits.
We’re not just talking about improved memory, but learning, general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability, and even protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (21, 22, 23).
Protection against Heart Disease
Numerous studies have also shown that blueberries may be beneficial in the help against heart disease, again, largely due to the abundance of antioxidants.
Specifically, eating plenty of anthocyanins has been shown to potentially reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 32%, again highlighting the potential for blueberries as a heart disease busting superfood (24, 25, 26).
How to Select and Store
Look for plump and firm blueberries with a dark blue-violet colour. The batch should contain berries that are equal in size, in containers without juice or stains on the package (29).
For best results, always refrigerate or freeze blueberries when they are completely dry and only wash them just before consumption, as opposed to before storage which will cause them to deteriorate more quickly.
If stored properly, blueberries will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks and, like most other berries, they can be frozen and kept for months at a time. (33)
Sources for this article
- U.S. Bluebush Highbury Council
- Authority Nutrition
- Nutrition Data
- Everyday Health
- US National Library of Medicine
- News Medical
- Agriculture Journals
- Medical News Today
- University of Maryland Medical Centre
- Scientific American
- Web MD
- Journal of Nutrition
- Texas Pride Blueberries
- European Food Information Council
check out our recipes with blueberries