By Anne Palumbo
What gives blueberries this nutritional edge? And why should we eat more of this powerhouse fruit? Let’s take a look at four good reasons.
1. Longevity Promoters
Research shows that blueberries may have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants protect your body by neutralizing free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes. Although free radicals are naturally produced by the body, lifestyle factors—such as smoking, alcohol, fried foods—can accelerate their production, resulting in an unhealthy balance.
2. Brain Boosters
Blueberries, which teem with flavonoids, a particular plant compound with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, appear to reduce cognitive decline in the elderly, according to research published in Annals of Neurology. The study suggests that cognitive aging could be delayed by up to 2.5 years in older adults who consumed greater amounts of this nutrient-dense berry. Studies have also found that blueberries may improve a person’s short-term memory and motor coordination.
3. Blood Pressure Reducers
Concerned about high blood pressure? Eating just one cup of blueberries a week may cut your risk of developing hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease. Anthocyanins—the pigments that give red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables their rich coloring—seem to protect against high blood pressure, says a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. While there is no cure for hypertension, making lifestyle changes—such as eating more berries—may lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more.
4. Bone Builders
Blueberries contain a unique mix of minerals and vitamins that contribute to bone health, most notably vitamins C and K and the mineral manganese. While vitamin C is essential to the formation of collagen (the foundation that bone mineralization relies on), vitamin K helps to make various proteins that are needed for the building of bones. Manganese may help promote strong, dense bones when combined with calcium and vitamin D.
Healthy Blueberry Parfait with Granola
1 cup blueberries, washed and dried
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or yogurt of choice)
½ cup granola
Spoon ½ cup yogurt in the bottom of a glass and smooth the top. Add ¼ cup granola and ½ cup blueberries. Repeat the layers and eat right away, or chill in fridge until ready to eat.
Shake the blueberry container before purchase, noticing whether the berries move freely: if they do not, this may indicate that they are old, soft, or spoiled. Before storing, remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling. Place in covered container and store in refrigerator for five to seven days. Don’t wash blueberries until right before eating as washing removes the bloom that protects the berries’ skin from degradation.
Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at firstname.lastname@example.org.