Many wonder whether the health benefits of blueberries are exaggerated whenever they see blueberries pretty much near the top of any list of superfoods. Are blueberries really a superfood?
Blueberries contain important compounds, called anthocyanin, that have been proven to have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on every cell of the body.
It is well known that inflammation and oxidative damage are involved in virtually every major killer disease - Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, heart disease as well as conditions of ageing like arthritis.
Blueberries don't just protect you from oxidative stress, they do even more. They actually help neurons in the brain communicate with one another more effectively.
If you want to keep your brain young and elastic, then blueberries are the food of choice. At least, according to Dr. James Joseph, lead scientist in the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Ageing at Tuft University (1).
As we get older, the neurons in the brain don't "talk" to each other so much anymore, memory goes down and the processing necessary for coordination and balance tends to decline. This is were the health benefits of health benefits of blueberries or, rather, the polyphenol compounds found in blueberries come in. Dr. Joseph believes that they don't just turn on the signals between cells, but they also enable the brain to grow new neurons.
The health benefits of blueberries extend to the eyes as well. In fact, they've been shown to promote eye health and protect against glaucoma and cataract progression (2).
In Japan, wild blueberries are called "the vision fruit", because their high concentration of anthocyanin, whose benefits include reduction of eye strain and improving night vision.
Numerous studies are in progress to examine the ability of blueberries to prevent macular degeneration.
Please, read my Newsletter on How to Harness the Power of Anthocyanins to know more about these amazing compounds.
Blueberries also promote urinary tract health because they contain the same compounds found in cranberries that help prevent and eliminate urinary tract infections, or UTIs.
In order for bacteria to infect, they must first adhere to the mucosal lining of the urethra and bladder. Compounds found in cranberry and blueberry juice reduce the ability of E. coli, the bacterium most responsible for urinary tract infections, to adhere.
Another compound found in blueberries, called pterostilbene, has the ability to lower blood cholesterol and has been found to be superior to both resveratrol (the anti-aging compound found in grapes) and the prescription drug Ciprofibrate.
Researchers believe that the anthocyanosides present in blueberries can block the ability of cholesterol to penetrate vessel walls, especially in the brain, thereby reducing the amount of damage.
A cholesterol-rich diet makes blood vessels more permeable, allowing calcium-fat deposits to accumulate and create harmful plaque.
This is where the blueberry chemicals come in. They interact with collagen in both large and micro blood vessels to create a tougher wall that cholesterol cannot breach, keeping it flowing freely through heart and brain.
In addition to soluble and insoluble fibre, blueberries contain tannins, which act as astringents in the digestive system to firm up a loose stool. Tannins also have the ability to kill both bacteria and viruses.
To reap all the amazing health benefits of blueberries, how many should you eat? Only adding 1/2 a cup a day of wild or frozen blueberries seems to be doing the trick.
Frozen blueberries are easy to find all year round, but are they as effective? Well, all of Dr. Joseph's studies were done using frozen berries so if they worked for him, they can work for you too.
... or choose one of the recipes in this extraordinary book:
|Blueberry Delights Cookbook: A Collection of Blueberry Recipes (Cookbook Delights Series 2) by Karen Jean Matsko Hood|
(1) Nutrition, Brain Aging, and Neurodegeneration, by James Joseph, Greg Cole, Elizabeth Head and Donald Ingram. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/29/41/12795.full
(2) The Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods, by Dr. Michael Murray, Dr. Joseph Pizzorno .