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Nature’s superfood: The incredible health benefits of blueberries

Written by Casey Wise | Wednesday, 12 April 2023

diet nutrition superfoods

Superfood is a buzzword that is thrown around a lot in the health space, and not one that I use lightly. But when it comes to blueberries, these small but mighty fruits are certainly worthy of the title!

Blueberries are nutrient powerhouses; packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre that can help to support optimal health. They have been researched extensively for their therapeutic effects in lowering heart disease risk, improving memory and cognition, and supporting digestive function.

Blueberries are rich in a particular group of antioxidants called anthocyanins (which are responsible for their vibrant blue/purple pigment). Anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory properties and neutralise free radicals in the body, thus protecting against cellular damage and oxidative stress. They also have specific anti-peroxidative activity, meaning that they block the degradation of lipids by free radicals to prevent damage from being caused to cell membranes1.

These are the purported mechanisms through which consumption of blueberries can assist in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. A 2015 study found that daily consumption of 22g of freeze-dried blueberry powder for 8 weeks significantly improved blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension2. Another study conducted on both men and women with metabolic syndrome found that daily intake of 1 cup of fresh blueberries over a period of 6 months resulted in sustained improvements in vascular function and lipid status3.

The antioxidant effects of blueberries are also powerful for supporting cognitive function, memory and learning ability. Research has demonstrated that anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase blood flow to key areas of the brain. There, they exert protective effects against brain oxidative stress and inflammation and help to improve communication between neurons. In older population groups especially (aged 65 plus), clinical trials have demonstrated that wild blueberry supplementation significantly improves speed of information processing and memory function4,5.

With all of these incredible health benefits, it is an added bonus that blueberries taste delicious and can be easily incorporated into the diet. You could consider:

  • Eating them as they are
  • Adding a handful to your morning smoothie
  • Having them on top of yoghurt, porridge, overnight oats, or pancakes
  • Making blueberry muffins, breads, slices, etc.
  • Using them in granola or trail mixes
  • Drinking pure blueberry juice
  • Trying a freeze-dried blueberry powder

You might be wondering – are fresh or frozen blueberries best? Well, the nutritional content and antioxidant properties of both are generally very similar. Nutritional value certainly varies between wild-harvested and conventionally farmed blueberries, but the important take-home message is to choose whichever kind of blueberries are accessible to you, as all will confer some health benefits.

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  1. Reis, J. F., Monteiro, V. V., de Souza Gomes, R., do Carmo, M. M., da Costa, G. V., Ribera, P. C., & Monteiro, M. C. (2016). Action mechanism and cardiovascular effect of anthocyanins: A systematic review of animal and human studies. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14(1), 315.
  2. Johnson, S. A., Figueroa, A., Navaei, N., Wong, A., Kalfon, R., Ormsbee, L. T., Feresin, R. G., Elam, M. L., Hooshmand, S., Payton, M. E., & Arjmandi, B. H. (2015). Daily blueberry consumption improves blood pressure and arterial stiffness in postmenopausal women with pre- and stage 1-hypertension: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(3), 369–377.
  3. Curtis, P. J., van der Velpen, V., Berends, L., Jennings, A., Feelisch, M., Umpleby, A. M., Evans, M., Fernandez, B. O., Meiss, M. S., Minnion, M., Potter, J., Minihane, A. M., Kay, C. D., Rimm, E. B., & Cassidy, A. (2019). Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome-results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 109(6), 1535–1545.
  4. Cheatham, C. L., Canipe, L. G., 3rd, Millsap, G., Stegall, J. M., Chai, S. C., Sheppard, K. W., & Lila, M. A. (2022). Six-month intervention with wild blueberries improved speed of processing in mild cognitive decline: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Nutritional Neuroscience, 1–15.
  5. Krikorian, R., Shidler, M. D., Nash, T. A., Kalt, W., Vinqvist-Tymchuk, M. R., Shukitt-Hale, B., & Joseph, J. A. (2010). Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58(7), 3996–4000.

Casey Wise

Casey is a practicing Clinical Nutritionist (BHSc Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine) and Endeavour College graduate based in Brisbane, Queensland. Her areas of expertise are autoimmune disease and gut health, and the interconnection between the two.

Casey's journey into nutrition began after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at just 17 years old and experiencing first-hand the transformative power of adopting a nutritious diet and healing the gut. This, combined with her education and clinical experience, has allowed Casey to develop a holistic and integrative approach to nutrition and cemented her passion for helping others to lead their healthiest, most fulfilling lives.

Read more by Casey Wise