Get the Blues: The Nutritional Benefits of Blueberries

By: 
True You
October 29, 2021

If you think of the word “superfood,” blueberries are the first food likely to come to mind. Packed with an absurd amount of nutrients and boasting a low glycemic index, blueberries are among the healthiest foods you can eat. Paired with their relatively low cost, wide availability, and durability when stored or frozen, blueberries quickly take the title of one of the healthiest foods you can eat. 

Grown throughout North America, the highbush blueberry used in commercial production and lowbush, or wild blueberries, are small berries that, though initially green, ripen to a bluish-purple color. Rich in a host of important nutrients, these berries appear in every corner of the food landscape from baked goods to fruit smoothies. 

The Health Benefits of Blueberries

We all know that as Americans, most of us should probably be eating more fruits and vegetables. The health benefits for many different processes in the body that can come from adding more veggies and fruits into your diet are wide ranging and well supported by ample clinical research. 

Blueberries in particular are powerful for your overall wellness. These little berries have been found to help you recover faster after strength training, ward off heart disease, potentially reduce the severity of symptoms of diabetes, can help fight metabolic syndrome, help lower blood pressure, and can reduce the potential dangers of LDL cholesterol. As if that wasn’t enough, there is also research suggesting a diet featuring blueberries can provide benefits for brain health as well, potentially reducing or delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The full list of benefits for your health and overall wellness found in blueberries is quite extensive. A few of the main nutrients of which blueberries are a good source include:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • potassium
  • manganese
  • ​magnesium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin E

In addition to these nutrients, blueberries are also low in the things many of us are trying to avoid. As relatively a nutritionally dense, low-carb food, blueberries are a good option for those looking to lower their carbohydrate intake. What is more, due to their low glycemic index, blueberries are a great option for those who have trouble maintaining their blood sugar levels but still want the advantages and health benefits of fruit in their diet. 

What is the Main Benefit of Blueberries?

The main health benefits of blueberries can be summed up in one word: antioxidants. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants found in any fruit or vegetable. The principal source of these antioxidants is a collection of polyphenol compounds known as flavonoids. Of these flavonoids, one group in particular, the anthocyanins, are found in high concentrations in many different fruits and vegetables that share the dark purple or blue color of blueberries.

The reason anthocyanins and other antioxidants are important is the role they play in preventing the oxidative DNA damage that has been linked to many health problems. Everything from cancer outcomes to heart health has been shown to improve in individuals who eat a diet high in antioxidant rich foods. 

The nutrition facts about a cup of blueberries don’t show this benefit clearly, since defending your body against the free radical molecules that cause oxidative stress takes many forms. One example is the way anthocyanins help prevent the oxidizing of LDL cholesterol in your blood vessels. The reduced risk of heart attack by preventing LDL from oxidizing is of particular value to older adults who are at a higher risk of heart disease.

Other Benefits of Eating Blueberries

Another area of distinct benefit from eating blueberries is for those suffering from type 2 diabetes or other insulin resistance issues. For individuals who have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels, blueberries can help add nutrients into your diet, and provide a delicious sweetness, without significantly contributing to the amount of glucose in your blood. 

What is even more promising is that the anthocyanins found in berries can have effects beyond slowing type 2 diabetes disease progression. Research has shown that individuals with known insulin resistance have seen improved outcomes after regularly consuming blueberries and blueberry juice. 

One more surprising benefit of eating blueberries is potentially helping to preserve brain function and slow cognitive decline in older adults. The same oxidative stress that affects other tissues in the body can also take a toll on your brain as you age. The effect can be pronounced even when consumption is begun later in life. Some studies have suggested that consuming a diet high in antioxidants such as those found in blueberries can delay the onset of cognitive decline by an average of more than two years. 

Can You Eat Too Many Blueberries?

It is possible to overdo nearly everything, including healthy foods. Blueberries are high in dietary fiber, which means that eating too many in too short a time can cause some dramatic consequences on the toilet. 

Aside from loosening your stool, there are some people who do need to exercise caution when it comes to eating blueberries. Blueberries contain salicylates, a compound known to cause an allergic reaction in some people. 

Those same salicylates also play a part in the other reason some people need to avoid blueberries. Salicylates act as a natural blood thinner, and blueberries also contain high amounts of vitamin K, which affects blood clotting. For individuals on Coumadin (warfarin) or other blood thinners, consuming blueberries can have adverse effects.

Blueberries and Weight Loss

When you are on a weight loss plan few foods are as good for you and as tasty as fresh blueberries. Finding foods that are as enticing as they are nutritious can be an important step for people who are making changes to their diet in an effort to lose weight. A few fresh blueberries can make a bowl of granola more delicious and nutritious without adding very many calories.

In addition to individuals who may have an allergy or need to manage medication complications, there is one other group that may need to exercise caution in consuming blueberries. While these dark berries are incredibly healthy, especially for their size, the high fiber content could cause some challenges for individuals who have undergone weight loss surgery. 

One of the major risks for those who have undergone traditional gastric bypass surgery is not complications from the surgery itself, but the potential dangers that could come from not properly managing your diet afterward. High fiber foods like blueberries can accelerate the movement of stool through your digestive tract, and even cause a loosening of the stool. With the incredibly restricted size of your stomach after gastric bypass surgery, it can be difficult to replace fluids and nutrients lost to diarrhea or loose stools. 

These post-surgery dietary restrictions are one reason an increasing number of people are shying away from gastric bypass surgery and gravitating toward other minimally invasive weight loss procedures. At True You, endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is just one example of the kinds of alternative services we offer that can help you lose weight with fewer risks and drawbacks than traditional bariatric surgery. 

If you have reached the point in your weight loss journey where it seems as though you have tried every form of diet and exercise and you still haven’t found the freedom you are looking for from excess body weight, request a consultation with True You Weight Loss today.

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