Blueberries (vaccinium corymbosum), named for their deep blue color, are one of the few fruits native to North America. The genus vaccinium includes over 450 species including cranberries, bilberry, and blueberries.
Blueberries are not only tasty, but are low in calories and packed with vitamins, fiber, manganese, iron, and antioxidants. The berries and leaves have a number of medicinal properties that have been used for generations to treat and prevent digestive orders, improve circulation, maintain eye health, and reduce inflammation. Scientific research in the United States, Canada, and Europe continues to reveal the amazing health benefits of blueberries.
Each 1/2 cup serving of fresh blueberries contain 11g of carbohydrates from two main sources: dietary fiber and simple sugars. A serving of blueberries contains 10 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin C, as well as 2 percent of the recommended daily allowance for iron. Vitamin C aids the formation of collagen, helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries, and promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system.
The health benefits associated with blueberries are attributed to their unique assortment of phytochemicals, the most abundant of which are anthocyanins, the plant pigments responsible for blueberries’ deep blue color. Current research regarding blueberries has focused primarily on their antioxidant properties with the potential cancer-prevention properties, protective effects against dementia-related diseases, and link to urinary tract, heart, and vision health.
Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables, which combat free radicals that can damage cellular structures and DNA.
Regularly consuming the nutrients contained in blueberries may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease, high blood cholesterol and cancer. They are also proven to combat insulin resistance that has been linked to obesity and diabetes – rats that dined on a diet of blueberries ended up with reduced liver mass and lost abdominal fat.
Blueberry extract helps improve micro-circulation, which benefits the capillaries serving the eyes and mucous membranes of the digestive and pulmonary systems. Healthier capillaries improve circulation throughout the body, which could help those suffering from arthritis, water retention, varicose veins, bruising, and hemorrhoids. Tea made from the dried leaves can be used for sore throat and inflammation of the mouth or the skin lining the throat.
For centuries, dating back to ancient Greeks and Romans, blueberries have been used to treat diseases of the urinary tract. Studies have shown that hippuric acid in blueberry juice acidifies urine, which prevents harmful bacteria from developing and helps to remove calcium oxalates that lead to kidney stones.
Astringent and antivomitive properties in blueberries also make them a great treatment for a number of digestive issues. The astringent agents are able to stop diarrhea and aids difficult digestion. More than 30 anti-inflammatory properties are present in the blueberry and can help reduce the effects of inflammatory bowel disease.
Effective treatment of wounds and skin diseases are also associated with blueberries. Mouthwashes made of dried blueberry leaves can help reduce mouth ulcers and the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant also help reduce pimples and facilitates healing.
Studies suggest that women who have a diet high in anthocyanins, which are found in blueberries, have a significantly reduced risk of developing heart disease. Potential benefits of blueberries on the heart include increased flexibility in the blood vessels, decreased inflammation, and decreased platelet aggregation.
Blueberries are also brain boosters. Studies have shown that blueberries can help with memory loss and increased circulation, which may help to combat the start or progression of degenerative diseases like Parkinsons and Alzheimers. Findings have spurred new research into the benefits of blueberries on cognitive function, since they point to the possibility of overcoming the genetic predispositions to Alzheimer’s disease.
Blueberries can be consumed in a number of forms: fresh, frozen, dried, concentrated powder, tea, juice, and extract. The most common way of consuming blueberries is in their fresh, whole form.
While the best berries are eaten fresh in season, exciting new studies show that freezing blueberries does not damage to their delicate anthocyanin antioxidants, making them an available source all year round.
Eating fresh fruits of all kinds is very important to our everyday and long-term health, and the health benefits of blueberries are abundant.
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