Blueberries – who doesn’t love these little berries packed with flavor? But did you know that they are also packed with antioxidants and that there are far-reaching health benefits of blueberries for your body?
Blueberries have perhaps the highest (other than pomegranates) amount of antioxidants. The very thing that gives them their distinctive color, the anthocyanin pigments, is thought to be the antioxidant which causes blueberries to be so beneficial to your health. Antioxidants help fight off free radicals in the human body. Free radicals cause oxidation which can result in premature aging as well as all kinds of diseases including cancer.
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Many researchers have found in studies that one important health benefit of blueberries is that it can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. This, in turn, can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease as well as stroke. It can also help prevent loss in mental capacity due to age and ease eye strain and fatigue.
Blueberries also contain a compound that inhibits the growth of bacteria and prevents them from attaching themselves to the cell walls of the urinary tract thus making it a good preventative for urinary tract infections (UTI’s) much like cranberries.
Blueberries are native to North America and those of us who grew up here might remember picking them wild as children or taking the annual trip to the local farm for blueberry picking – Yum! There are actually 30 different varieties and they range in color from smokey blue to maroon to purple-black. Each different variety has a different taste (and also depending on the stage of ripeness) and blueberries can either be very sweet or very tart and everything in between. They can be picked all summer long from May to October for a tasty and healthy treat!
When choosing blueberries, pick ones that are firm and have a vibrant color. If you are buying them in the grocery store make sure the berries move freely when you shake the container and that there is no water in the container as this will cause them to mold and decay. Frozen berries should not be clumped together in a big clump as this means they have been sitting in there frozen for too long.
Some other important health benefits of blueberries include their role in preventing age-related loss of function. In one study at the Human Nutrition Center, mice were given the human equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries per day and then were put through motor skill tests. The blueberry fed mice performed better than the others who didn’t have blueberries and a subsequent examination of their brains found a large decrease in oxidative stress when compared with the other mice. They can also help lower your risk of macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s and can help relieve both diarrhea and constipation.