Fresh blueberries are one of the most popular summer treats of all time. They are sweet, succulent, full of nutrients, and can be eaten freshly picked as well as incorporated into a variety of recipes.
Blueberries contain a type of flavonoid known as anthocyanins, which are responsible for giving foods like blueberries, cranberries, red cabbage and eggplants their iconic deep red, purple and blue hues. Anthocyanins are responsible for more than just the blueberry’s pretty blue color – they also contribute to the popular fruit’s numerous health benefits.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the blueberry and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more blueberries into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming blueberries.
One cup of fresh blueberries contains 84 calories, 0 grams of cholesterol, 1.1 grams of protein, 0.49 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbohydrate and 3.6 grams of dietary fiber (14% of daily requirements).
That same one-cup serving provides 24% of daily vitamin C, 5% vitamin of B6 and 36% of vitamin K needs. Blueberries also provide iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, manganese, zinc, copper, folate,beta-carotene, folate, choline, vitamin A and vitamin E.
In addition to anthocyanins, blueberries contain a diverse range of phenolic compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin and chlorogenic acid – all of which contribute to their antioxidant capacity.
Due to these large amounts of bioactive compounds, blueberries rank very highly on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI), which rates foods based on their vitamin and mineral content, phytochemical composition and antioxidant capacity. Foods that have the most nutrients per calorie have the highest rankings, and blueberries score among the top 20 fruits and vegetables.
Possible health benefits of blueberries
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like blueberries decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Maintaining healthy bones
The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamin K in blueberries all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength.
Iron and zinc play crucial roles in maintaining the strength and elasticity of bones and joints. Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk for bone fracture, while adequate vitamin K intakes improve calcium absorption and may reduce calcium loss.5
Lowering blood pressure
Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to lowering blood pressure. Blueberries are naturally free of sodium and contain potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally.3
Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One cup of blueberries contributes 3.6 grams of fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men.
Warding off heart disease
The blueberry’s fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and phytonutrient content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all support heart health. The fiber in blueberries helps lower the total amount of cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin B6 and folate prevent the buildup of a compound known as homocysteine. When excessive amounts of homocysteine accumulate in the body, it can damage blood vessels and lead to heart problems.
According to a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of East Anglia, regular consumption of anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women. The study, which was led by nutrition professor Aedin Cassidy, PhD, MSc, BSc, found that women who consumed at least three servings of blueberries or strawberries, showed the best results.
Vitamin C, vitamin A, and various phytonutrients in blueberries function as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage. They inhibit tumor growth, decrease inflammation in the body and help ward off or slow several types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate and colon.1
Blueberries also contain folate, which plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, thus preventing the formation of cancer cells from mutations in the DNA.1
Improving mental health
Population-based studies have shown that consumption of blueberries can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as well as Parkinson’s disease – a neurodegenerative disorder resulting from cell death in parts of the brain.
Studies have also revealed that in addition to reducing the risk of cognitive damage, blueberries can also improve short-term memory loss and motor coordination.4
Because of their fiber content, blueberries help to prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
Weight loss and satiety
Dietary fiber is commonly recognized as an important factor in weight loss and weight management by functioning as a “bulking agent” in the digestive system. High fiber foods increase satiety and reduce appetite, making you feel fuller for longer and thereby lowering your overall calorie intake.
Collagen, the skin’s support system, relies on vitamin C as an essential nutrient that works in our bodies as an antioxidant to help prevent damage caused by the sun, pollution and smoke. Vitamin C also promotes collagen’s ability to smooth wrinkles and improve overall skin texture. Just one cup of blueberries provides 24% of your daily need for vitamin C.
How to incorporate more blueberries into your diet
Blueberries are available fresh, frozen, freeze dried and in jellies, syrups and jams. Make sure to check the label of frozen and dried blueberries for added sugars. When looking for jellies or jams, go for all fruit spreads without the added sweeteners and fillers.
- Use blueberries as fresh toppings on oatmeal, waffles, pancakes, yogurt or cereal for an extra burst of flavor in your breakfast
- Whip up a quick and easy smoothie using frozen berries, low-fat milk and yogurt
- Mix fresh or dried blueberries into a spinach salad with walnuts and feta cheese
- Fold them into muffins and sweet breads or blend them in a food processor with a little water and use as a fresh syrup to top desserts or breakfast foods.
Potential health risks of consuming blueberries
If you are taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
Written by Megan Ware RDN LD
and Helen Yuan, nutrition intern
The Health Benefits Of Tea + 15 Teas For Any Ailment
Have you noticed the rise in popularity of tea drinking where you live? Tea shops are popping up as often as coffee houses! Beyond just the charm of drinking tea, science supports the health benefits of tea. Tea is wonderful for you! Black, green, oolong, herbal, white – there are so many choices. Let’s discuss the benefits of each type of tea and when to drink them.
1. GREEN TEA
Green tea is one of the lesser processed teas, therefore it’s high in antioxidants, specifically catechins. Catechins help fight cell damage, so to preserve the catechins it’s recommended that green tea be steeped with water no hotter than 170 degrees. One of the greatest benefits of green tea is its effects on healthy cell growth which have widespread advantages for our bodies, inside and out. Use it topically in an infused coconut oil moisturizer to fight sun damage. Green tea reduces bad cholesterol and although there is caffeine in it, which boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss, green tea can have a relaxing and calming effect.
2. BLACK TEA
Black tea actually comes from the same plant as green tea, but the tea leaves are exposed to oxygen and this oxidization turns the leaves black. Black tea is known for it’s larger amounts of caffeine and antioxidants. The benefits of black tea include lowering risk of heart disease and diabetes, encouraging a healthy immune system and regulating blood sugar levels. If you need digestive help, black tea in small doses is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties as well.
3. OOLONG TEA
Falling between green and black teas, you’ll find oolong, with its partially oxidized leaves. Oolong provides the benefits of both black and green teas, and with it, a fruity flavor. Oolong is often the tea of choice for weight management and is known to help alleviate skin conditions. A word of caution – oolong tea can be very high in caffeine, so if you are sensitive to caffeine, drink in moderation.
CINNAMON OOLONG TEA
- 12 oolong tea bags
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- hot water
Steep tea bags and cinnamon sticks in hot water (about 190 degrees) for 10 minutes. Strain and serve. For iced tea, pour over ice.
4. WHITE TEA
White tea reigns as the least processed type of tea, making its antioxidant properties the highest. It also has the least amount of caffeine of the caffeinated teas. White tea can lower cholesterol and blood pressure and is antibacterial.
HEALING HERBAL TEAS
There are several types of herbal teas, however none are produced from tea leaves. Herbal teas, or herbal tisanes, are usually made from dried fruits, herbs, roots, bark, berries or flowers. Infusions are made by blending any number of these together. Herbal teas are caffeine free and generally safe for children and pregnant women. These teas can be high in minerals (Rooibos), cold and flu fighters (Ginger), alleviate insomnia (Hibiscus), help clear a stuffy nose (Peppermint), lessen menopausal symptoms (Red Clover), stimulate digestion (Dandelion), aid colicky babies (Chamomile), and fight viruses (Cinnamon).
Rooibos, also called Red Bush Tea, comes from South Africa. It is naturally caffeine-free and contains two bioflavonoids called rutin and quercetin. Both of these compounds block the release of histamine (the chemical our bodies produce in response to allergens). Rooibos may also have benefits for skin irritations and contain cancer fighting properties.
The oil and menthol found in peppermint can have a therapeutic effect, acting as a decongestant and an anti-inflammatory, while also helping to suppress the appetite. The verdict is still out on whether is soothes or exacerbates an upset stomach, so contact your doctor before taking peppermint if you have a condition like GERD.
7. DRIED GINGER
Ginger has so many amazing healing properties! When it comes to allergies and colds, its natural antihistamine is a boon. And ginger’s anti-inflammatory abilities can soothe the stomach, relieve sore muscles, and lessen the strength of menstrual cramps. Going on a boat? Drink ginger tea to ease motion sickness. And of course we are all familiar with ginger’s natural kick, which makes it a great flavor booster even in small amounts.
8. STINGING NETTLE
You might have less than fond memories of stinging nettles from your childhood. These are the same nettles, but they turn from harmful to healthy when boiled into tea. Nettles are the most often recommended remedy for seasonal allergies and can help relieve itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. This is also an herb to try for anyone suffering from arthritis or who need a quick boost of energy.
9. YERBA MATE
Yerba Mate is very popular in South America. It contains natural caffeine and works to produce corticosteroids, which act as an anti-inflammatory in response to allergens. This can help open up respiratory passages and increase oxygen intake. Yerba Mate can also lowers lipids, leading to reduced cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
10. LEMON BALM
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family, but has a lemony scent, hence its name. Widely known for its calming effects, lemon balm can also help with the common cold and other respiratory issues. Lemon balm alleviates digestive problems, such as an upset stomach and gas, and also works well for painful ailments like a headache or toothache.
Long used throughout Europe and Asia to treat sleep and stomach troubles, chamomile is becoming quite popular in North America. While its sleep-inducing properties are well known, chamomile can also soothe puffy eyes and be used as an anti-bacterial mouthwash. A word of caution to allergy sufferers though, the chamomile plant is a relative of ragweed..
Hands down, Hibiscus is a favorite tea choice to cool off with during the summer. In addition to being refreshing, hibiscus also has properties that help lower blood pressure, especially for those with diabetes. Other reasons to drink hibiscus? It’s naturally high in vitamins, like vitamin C, and acts as a natural diuretic.
13. RED CLOVER
Red Clover is most often associated with its ability to lessen menopausal symptoms, but it can help men, too. This herb can reduce one’s PSA, the marker used to determine if you are at risk for prostrate cancer. Of benefit to men and women are the isoflavones found in red clover, which help protect against cardiovascular disease.
Dandelion tea is popular because it acts as a diuretic to stimulate digestion. Less commonly known is that dandelion root is used medicinally to treat hepatitis, jaundice and dyspepsia. And it should be mentioned that dandelion tea lessens hot flashes and combats the formation of kidney stones.
Rounding out our list of teas is cinnamon, the super spice of the herb world. Consider it if you’re interested in lowering cholesterol, fighting viruses, increasing your antioxidants or alleviating systems of arthritis.
Read more at http://hellonatural.co/the-health-benefits-of-tea-15-teas-for-any-ailment/#YiduTC2kQbG2UJ8q.99