Goodness Of Blueberries

Words: Team THINKWELLNESS360

Blueberries, a species native to North America, grow in shades ranging from light blue to dark purple. The berries have a smooth, but somewhat waxy skin, covered with a powdery silver film, or ‘bloom.’ Blueberries are, in some cultures, called star berries, because of the star-shaped calyx on the top of each fruit. Cultivated blueberries can be as large as 3/4 inch in diameter, although the ‘wild’ varieties measure 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter.

Compact Woody Shrub

The blueberry plant is a compact, woody shrub that is related to bilberry, cranberry, and huckleberry. Blueberries [Vaccinium myrtillis] grow in clusters; the berries ripen at different times. They must be handpicked to harvest the best of the early fruit. Later, a harvesting machine is used to gently shake each bush, so that only the ripe berries fall off. The blueberry season lasts from mid-April to late September, beginning in the southern states and moving north as the season progresses. The berries are extremely perishable and easily damaged by improper handling and extreme temperatures.

There are over 50 species of blueberries — cultivated and wild. The two types of cultivated blueberries are high-brush and rabbit-eye. Highbrush blueberries, V corymbosum L, are grown throughout North America, whereas the rabbit-eye varieties, V ashei Reade, are better adapted to southern regions of the United States.

Lowbush [wild] blueberries, V angustifolium Ait, grow naturally in Maine, Nova Scotia, and Quebec. They are prized for their intense flavour. The lowbush [wild] blueberry varieties grow to about 3 feet in height, whereas the high-bush and rabbit-eye cultivars could grow more than 10 feet, if not pruned. The desirable flavour, colour, and texture of today’s cultivars are the result of nearly one hundred years of hybridisation.

Food As Medicine

Blueberries have been used as a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. Early explorers of North America noted that American Indians smoked the berries to preserve them for winter and pounded the berries to make a jerky [pemmican]. Blueberries were also appreciated by the early American settlers as food and also medicine.

Blueberries can be eaten dried, or fresh, as a snack food; added to cereals, salads, yogurt, or ice-cream; or, used as an ingredient in pancakes, muffins, pies, breads, or sauces, or as cake topping; or, mashed to make jam, or jelly. Although the blueberry season is short, berries can be bought in the off-season in frozen, canned, or dried form.

Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C. Recent research has shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infection [UTI] by increasing the acidity of urine, which helps destroy bacteria and also prevents them from colonising on the bladder walls.

Healthy Benefits

Blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits — they protect against aging, cancer and damage to your DNA. A standard serving of 100gm [3/4 of a cup] provides 65 calories and 15gm of carbohydrates.

Here’s why blueberries are such a healthy option.

Rich in antioxidants. Stress isn’t good for your body — especially oxidative stress. This occurs due to the presence of molecules called free radicals. In fact, they can damage cells. Antioxidants hold the key to reducing the impact of oxidative stress. Blueberries are extremely rich in antioxidants — specifically anthocyanins — which are also found in chokeberries and elderberries.

According to a 2004 study, a cup of cultivated blueberries [berries grown to eat] has 9,019 antioxidants. Lowbush [or, wild] blueberries have 13,427 total antioxidants per cup.

Full of vitamins and minerals. In addition to being low in calories, blueberries are nutrient-dense. They’re good sources of vitamin C and vitamin K, as well as manganese.

Helps manage cholesterol. Blueberries are high in soluble fibre. Soluble fibre binds around the bile in our guts and helps remove bile — encompassing of cholesterol, bile acids, salts, metals and bilirubin [a substance produced after breaking down red blood cells]. The removal is imperative for good health.

Helps manage blood sugar. Blueberries are high in fibre and low in sugar when compared to other fruits; they don’t cause your blood sugar to spike. A 2020 study found that eating blueberries daily lowered certain cardio-metabolic health parameters, such as triglycerides, especially in diabetics.

Potentially reduces blood pressure. A 2019 study of people living with metabolic syndrome found that eating blueberries daily had a positive impact. Eating blueberries helps reduce high blood pressure in people who have metabolic syndrome, because they help the body produce more nitric oxide. Nitric acid relaxes your blood vessels.

Blueberries are a multipurpose fruit; they are suitable for meals, or snacking, at any time. You can enjoy them in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or salads.

Summary

Blueberries are flavourful fruits of the shrub tree; they grow in clusters and vary in size, from that of the size of a pea to the size of a marble. Their colour often ranges from maroon to purple black. The flesh of the blueberries is semi-transparent and encases tiny seeds.

Blueberries are packed with antioxidant-rich vitamin C. They offer remarkable health-supportive properties. They support the formation of collagen in tissues and joints and helps maintain healthy gums and capillaries. They also promote absorption of iron and boost our immunity.

Put simply, a handful of blueberries, which are also rich in natural fibre, can help you meet your daily fibre requirements.

Manganese-rich blueberries also play an important role in bone development and in converting proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food into energy.

Blueberries are not only good for your heart; they are also good for virtually every bodily system. New research shows that damage to muscles caused due to overexertion, or excess exercise, can be reduced through consumption of blueberries. This holds good for nervous exhaustion too. Besides, a regular intake of blueberries — approximately 1-2 cups per day — improves HDL [‘good’] cholesterol. It also, likewise, lowers LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol and triglycerides.

Eating blueberries, on a daily basis, is also evidenced to improve cognitive function, including memory. Research shows that blueberries have a favourable impact on blood sugar regulation in diabetics. Foods rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries, are also suggested to protect the retina from damage. They are, likewise, purported to combat urinary tract infections [UTI].

With new blueberry research focused on the fruit’s anti-cancer benefits — such as breast, colon, oesophageal and intestinal cancer — it only makes perfect sense to add tangy blueberries into your daily diet.

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