I am just tickled blue that July is the month of the blueberry! I can’t wait to make my ever-popular blueberry tart, a blueberry smoothie, blueberry bran muffins/loaves, blueberry-almond icing on lemon cake, oh the list goes on and on… I realize we’re at the middle of the month, but it’s never to late to discuss the health benefits of noshing on the tiny blue fruit!
Historically, blueberry juice was used to treat coughs, as a relaxant during childbirth, and diarrhea (treated by the anthocyanins combating the intestinal bacteria). We’ve all heard about the antioxidant properties of blueberries, and for those of you fighting cholesterol, blueberries contain large amounts of pectin which has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol.
Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) are high in Vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene – but studies have shown that most of the C is lost upon freezing or canning, so get them fresh if you can!
Let’s take a look at a few of the individual molecular components:
Anthocyanins create the blue color in blueberries. Anthocyanins are antioxidants, known to reduce heart disease and cancer in humans – remember, we’ve also seen these in cherries. They are found throughout the plant world, but blueberries are the highest of any fruit or vegetable. This substance is believed to combat E. coli.
Chlorogenic acid is another antioxidant which may also slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream after a meal – this could help to alleviate that hyperglycemic rush after a large and engourging meal, as well as help prevent the hypoglycemic crash destined to follow; helps keep things at an even keel. Chlorogenic acid’s antioxidant properties may also help fight damaging free radicals.
Catechins’ (also found in green tea) antioxidant effect is believed to diminish the formation of plaque in the arteries. And with less plaque in the arteries, the more room for your blood to flow happily through your circulatory system, ergo reducing blood pressure. Further research is being done to see if they combat and/or suppress cancerous tumors and cell proliferation, but to date no evidence is solid.
Resveratrol is a substance that is produced by several plants (also found in the skins of red grapes, which are used to make wine). A number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, anti-viral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging effects have been reported for this substance. Resveratrol is also found in peanuts, and other berries of Vaccinium species including bilberries and cranberries.
Oxalates are the one possible negative aspect of blueberries. Oxalates should not be eaten in high concentration as they can crystallize and cause kidney or gallbladder problems, and slow the absorption of calcium into the system. But that’s no reason to have a handful of blueberries as a snack!
There are current studies world-wide to determine further effects on health and many believe that blueberries help the eyes, prevent urinary tract infections, lower cholesterol, protect against macular degeneration, and aid the cardiovascular system. Many of these studies have not arrived at a conclusion, and no single food is a cure-all, but looking at the list of phytochemicals in the blueberry, I am eager to eat them for health as well as pleasure.
Check this link for further nutritional info on blueberries in the raw!