For hundreds of years, blueberries have been used as food and medicine by Native Americans. They are a good source of polyphenols [the stuff that keeps your health healthy and helps you fight infections], micronutrients, and fibre. Owing to their mild sweet to tangy flavour and low caloric content, blueberries have made their way into various cuisines around the world. Blueberries contain a plant compound called anthocyanin. This not only gives blueberries their blue color and also many of their health benefits. Its high anti-oxidant value and its vitamin/mineral profile has led nutrition experts around the world to label it as a superfood. In fact, a cup of blueberries provides a quarter of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Succulent blueberries are generally eaten raw, but they can also be consumed in the form of puree, extract, concentrated powder and tea. They are popular ingredients in jams and jellies, and are also used to add flavour to salads and various baked goods, like muffins and donuts.
Health benefits of blueberries
Blueberries have received special accolades due to their unique health benefits. Studies have shown that blueberry consumption strengthens the blood sugar regulatory system, nervous system and digestive tract. Here are a few reasons to include blueberries in your everyday diet.
- Anti-cancer properties: As mentioned above, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which work to neutralise free radicals linked to the development of certain chronic diseases including many types of cancer. The folate content in blueberries can help prevent the formation of cancer cells due to DNA mutations.
- Blood sugar benefits: Even though these tiny berries are not particularly low in terms of their glycaemic index, studies have shown that they favourably impact blood sugar regulation by improving insulin sensitivity in people who suffer from obesity and diabetes.
- Heart health: Research suggests that regular consumption of blueberries improves cardiovascular health.
- Reduces blood pressure: In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, regular intake of blueberries was shown to reduce hypertension.
- Cognitive benefits: According to studies, blueberries boost brain health and memory. Regular consumption of these berries can cause delay in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have also found that age-associated memory loss can be prevented and reversed with blueberry juice.
- Eye health: Blueberries protect the retina of the eye from damage caused by sunlight. Being high in vitamin C, they reduce intraocular pressure, decreasing the chances of developing glaucoma.
- Bone health: Blueberries contain calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorous and vitamin K. Each of these is a component of our bones. Adequate intake of these minerals and vitamins contributes to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Iron and zinc fulfill crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints. Low intakes of vitamin K have been linked to a higher risk of bone fracture. However, adequate vitamin K intake improves calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss. [Source: Medical News Today]
- Urinary tract health: Blueberries prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. Drinking unsweetened blueberry juice on a regular basis ensures urinary tract health.
So remember to include blueberries in your shopping list and make sure you and your family have them as often as possible.
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