The blue or black cranberry is one of the foods with the highest antioxidant content (this increases the darker the cranberry is), which is why in recent years it began to be categorized as a “superfood”. Let’s see why it is good to add it to the diet and how to make the most of its benefits.
Blueberries are the berries of Vaccinium corymbosum, a shrub native to North America. The genus Vaccinium also includes other variants of the fruit, such as American lingonberries, cranberries, or baby blueberries.
In addition to their significant amount of antioxidants and phytonutrients, blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamins, especially B, C and K, water, and minerals, such as copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. In turn, it is low in calories, carbohydrates and sodium.
Thanks to this nutritious concentration, it became the focus of much research in recent years, which yielded promising results on its health benefits:
The consumption of blueberries has long been associated with benefits on the immune system and cellular function.
For example, thanks to the fact that it has polyphenols and resveratrol, the consumption of blueberries is linked to greater longevity and the reduction of adverse effects associated with aging.
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This statement is partially true, since these benefits do not depend only on eating blueberries, it must be accompanied by a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and a balanced diet.
The presence of phytonutrients and flavonoids in blueberries allows us to obtain antioxidants, essential to combat the action of free radicals. These are unstable molecules that affect healthy cell structures, promoting the appearance of different diseases.
The antioxidants in blueberries also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent or alleviate the symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, lupus, or psoriasis, among others.
Another highly studied aspect of the consumption of blueberries is its anticancer potential, again linked to its antioxidant properties, coming from compounds such as ellagic acid, anthocyanins, pterostilbene or vitamin C.
Finally, there is little evidence from animal studies that highlights a possible link between the consumption of blueberries and the detoxification of heavy metals from the body, such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury or lead.
They protect the skin, muscles and bones
Calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc are minerals that we can find in blueberries, which, together with vitamin K, make these small fruits effective and easy to incorporate into the diet to take care of bone health. Its consumption was even associated with a reduction in muscle pain and fatigue after exercising or strenuous tasks.
They are also rich in vitamin C, a fundamental nutrient for the formation of collagen. This is a protein that reduces joint pain, prevents joint stiffness, and favors skin elasticity.
For this reason, many experts say that a regular consumption of blueberries can help reduce the signs of aging, such as wrinkles or age spots.
From traditional medicine, home remedies are promoted to take advantage of the properties of blueberries.
One of the most popular, designed to stimulate hair growth, consists of chopping them and mixing them with olive oil, and then applying them to the hair and its roots. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this goodness.
The darker the blueberry, the higher its concentration of antioxidants. | Photo: GettyImages.
They take care of the heart
The blueberry has different nutrients that are useful to take care of and guarantee a good functioning of the heart:
- Fiber and antioxidant compounds: They are associated with a greater breakdown of cholesterol, a waxy substance that can accumulate on the walls of the arteries, clog them and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
- Potassium: this mineral acts as a natural vasodilator, which reduces the risk of hypertension and the consequences of high blood pressure. It also regulates the functioning of the heart muscles.
- Vitamin B and folate: are compounds that seem to reduce the damage that the accumulation of homocysteine (an amino acid related to the measurement of risk of heart disease) causes in the blood vessels.
Improve cognitive function
Again, the vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content of blueberries appears to provide health benefits.
In this case, improvements in cognition, as well as prevention of damage and degeneration of brain cells, were recorded among people who consumed blueberries regularly compared to those who did not.
They also seem to have positive effects on mood, and there is even research that associates it with antidepressant effects, although more studies are needed to analyze this relationship.
Weight control and good digestion
In a cup of blueberries we find only 15 grams of carbohydrates and 84 calories, in addition to the already known essential nutrients and dietary fiber.
This combination is ideal to contribute to proper digestion, as it stimulates the secretion of gastric juices and promotes proper bowel movement.
Blueberries also promote a feeling of fullness and allow better weight control (as they extend the periods between meals).
How to consume blueberries
Blueberries are becoming more and more popular for their nutritional and healing properties. This is reflected in some surveys that indicate that its consumption in the US has practically doubled since 2005.
You can find them in stores or supermarkets frozen (ideal for cold preparations or those that require crushing, since, although they retain their flavor, they lose a lot of texture), and fresh or dry (these last longer).
You can incorporate them into the diet in the following way:
- Add frozen blueberries to yogurt and mix it with other of your favorite cereals.
- Combine half a cup of blueberries with a cup of yogurt and another cup of your favorite fruits to prepare delicious and healthy smoothies.
- For breakfast, you can mix fresh or dried blueberries in a bowl of oatmeal and milk.
- Add the whole blueberries to decorate your pancakes.
How to make cranberry juice
Another option to take advantage of the benefits of blueberries and add them quickly and easily to your diet is to prepare them in juices. For this you only need:
- 1 cup of blueberries
- ½ cup of water.
- Between ½ and 1 cup of other fruits or vegetables you like, especially if they are rich in water, such as watermelon, cantaloupe, or cucumber.
You must peel and pit the fruit and vegetables of your choice, add in the blender for 30 seconds, and then use a cloth or fine mesh to strain. Serve chilled with lemon wedges and mint leaves.
As we saw, blueberries are delicious little fruits that are packed with healthy properties, but it’s not all good news, as they can also cause some damage.
In some people, they can cause allergies, causing itching, swelling and even shortness of breath.
There are also records indicating that they can interact with blood-thinning medications such as warfarin and, although rarely, interfere with blood sugar control.
Blueberries are small fruits packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Due to this nutritional quality, the consumption of blueberries is usually linked to many benefits, such as better heart health, better defenses, care for the skin, bones and muscles, weight control and good digestion.
In addition to being healthy, blueberries are very versatile and you can include them in your diet in juices, smoothies, smoothies, with other fruits or nuts, in yogurts, cakes or pancakes.
Although in rare cases, they have also been linked to side effects, such as interactions with blood-thinning medications, problems controlling blood sugar or allergies.
Sources consulted: Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database, US National Library of Medicine, US Department of Agriculture, National Institute for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.