Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with indigo-colored berries from the section Cyanococcus within the genus Vaccinium and belong to Ericaceae family, which includes bilberries and cranberries. There are three groups of blueberries, highbush blueberries, lowbush blueberries and rabbiteye blueberries.
With flavors that range from mildly sweet (cultivated) to tart and tangy (wild), blueberries are full of nutrition and flavor while being very low in calories. Blueberries are the second most popular berries in the U.S., after strawberries.
Always choose organic blueberries that are deeper in color because deeper the color, the more amount of antioxidants it will contain. They rank low on the GI, so people with diabetes can also consume them without any fear. In fact, they are good for regulating blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Blue berries are native to North America. The highbush variety is exclusively grown in North America. Other varieties can be found in Mediterranean, Europe and Asia. Half of the world’s blueberries are supplied by the U.S. Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina, these are the states where they are cultivated abundantly. The lowbush variety is mainly grown in the state of Maine.
Cultivation of blueberries was widespread among the Native American tribes throughout North America. European colonists learned about blueberries thanks to these Native American traditions and brought blueberry species back to Europe, where the commercial cultivation begun only 20th and 21st centuries.
It is also suggested to consume them raw in order to reap maximum benefits. You can even freeze blueberries; it won’t do any harm to the powerful antioxidants present in them.
19 HEALTHY WAYS TO BEAT THE BLUES WITH BLUEBERRIES:
- Anti Depressant: Blueberries increase the production of feel-good dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter, deficiency of which can lead to neuro degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
- Anti Oxidant: Blueberries contain the potent phytonutrient, anthocyanidins- an anti-oxidant that neutralizes free radicals preventing disease and aging. The abundance of vitamin-C is also a big factor for this as well.
- Anti Aging: Not only do the antioxidants – proanthocyanidins decrease free radicals levels but also reduce age related motor skill decline and memory loss.
- Fights Alzheimer’s Disease: Blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress, environmental toxins, and cognition. The anthocyanin, selenium, vitamins A, B-complex, C and E, zinc, sodium, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese etc., among others, prevent and heal neurotic disorders by preventing degeneration and death of neurons, brain-cells and restore health of the central nervous system.
- Urinary Tract Support: Blueberry juice has a unique compound that acts as an antibiotic and cleanser preventing E.coli bacteria from clinging to bladder walls and causing inflammation, burning sensation during in passage of urine, and other urinary tract infections (UTI).
- Anti-Inflammatory: The powerful anti oxidant proanthocyanidins in blueberries helps combat inflammations like osteoarthritis and gout. Blueberries increase the amounts of compounds called heat-shock proteins that reduce inflammation and cell damage, particularly in the brain..
- Anti-Cancer: Blueberries contain certain compounds like Pterostilbene, Ellagic Acid, flavanoids- flavone and luteolin, Anthocyanins and anti oxidants –vitamin C and copper, that provide genetic-material-protection capabilities and inhibit colon cancer cell proliferation and induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) preventing liver, ovarian and colon cancer.
- Lowers Cholesterol: The soluble fiber pectin helps dissolve bad cholesterol and its anti-oxidant property combats oxidation of cholesterol, strengthening the cardiac muscles, and widening arteries which counters the plaque buildup, preventing heart attacks and strokes.
- Prevents Constipation: The fiber in blueberries absorb 10 to 15 times its own weight in water, drawing fluid into your gut and increasing bowel movements, and the vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose and acids improve digestion.
- Cures Diarrhea: Like for bladder infection, the anthocyanosides in blueberries help kill the E.coli bacteria that is a common cause for diarrhea, especially effective when diarrhea is caused by food poisoning. Another compound, tannins, also helps to firm up loose stool in this case.
- Nasal congestion: Blueberries contain vasodilators that help dilate blood vessels, providing temporary relief for nasal and lung congestions.
- Improves Vision: Blueberries contain anthocyanosides that provide protection against age-related macular degeneration, myopia and hypermetropia, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dryness and retinal infections and improves night vision. Blue Berries also contain anti oxidants called Carotenoids-lutein and zeaxanthin, Flavonoids -rutin, resveritrol, quercetin, in addition to vitamin C, E, A, selenium, zinc and phosphorus, essential for the ocular health.
- Immune System Booster: Blueberries rich anti oxidants like Anthocyanin, vitamin C, B complex, vitamin E, vitamin A, anti-bacterial copper, selenium, zinc, and haemoglobin-booster iron, strengthens your immune system and prevent colds, fever, pox and other viral and bacterial communicable diseases.
- Reduces Belly Fat: Polyphenols and Catechins found in blueberries activate fat-burning genes in abdominal fat cells, lower triglycerides and cholesterol levels, and improve fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity. When combined with a low-fat diet it lowers body weight, and total fat and liver mass.
- Bone Health: Blueberries are high in manganese, which plays an important role in improving bone density and strength, preventing and delaying the onset of arthritis and osteoporosis.
- Lowers Blood Sugar: Blueberries have a low-glycemic that helps regulate blood sugar levels preventing type2 diabetes.
- Prevents Allergies: Blueberries contain abundant amounts of the phytonutrient quercetin that reduces the possibility and severity of allergies.
- Pain Relief: Blueberries contain salicylic acid—the natural version of aspirin, that helps in thinning the blood and reducing pain.
- Nutrient Store: Blueberries are an excellent source of flavonoids, especially one called anthocyanidins, vitamin B2, C and E, manganese, soluble and insoluble fiber such as pectin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. Blueberries contain minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Side Effects & Precautions:
- Oxalates: Individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating blueberries. It also affects calcium absorption.
- Pesticide Residues: According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 report “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” blueberries (grown in the United States) are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of blueberries unless they have been grown organically.
- Staining: Blueberry juice and skins produce a lovely purple blue color that can cause temporary stains when it comes into contact with teeth, tongue, lips, nails and skin.
- Salicylate Sensitivity: Blueberries contain salicylate, a substance that is similar to aspirin, which can produce stomach irritation so those with salicylate sensitivity may be able to better tolerate blueberries when eaten in small amounts.
- Interaction with Diabetes Drugs: Bilberries, a type of European blueberry, especially in large dose supplemental form, can interfere with diabetes drugs, insulin and other supplements used to control blood sugar. It is vital to check with your doctor before taking any supplements while on prescription drugs to treat diabetes.
- Bleeding Risks: Bilberry supplements can interact with blood thinners (anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-platelet drugs and aspirin) drugs to magnify uncontrolled bleeding problems.
- Diabetes: Blueberry might lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and monitor your blood sugar carefully if you have diabetes and use blueberry.
- Surgery: Blueberry might affect blood glucose levels and could interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgery. Stop using blueberry at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.