Health Benefits of Berries

The deep bluish-purple hue of the blueberry is as rich in health benefits as it is in beauty. The flavonoids in plants are powerful antioxidants, and they give plants their pigmentation. The antioxidants in berries are anthocyanins, which produce their distinctive purple and red shades.

Researchers have uncovered a variety of health benefits of blueberries. According to the journal PLoS One, the fruit’s antioxidants are useful in the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, and they benefit post-traumatic stress disorder by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. And a recent article in Arthritis Care Research states that among people with longstanding rheumatoid arthritis, many reported an improvement in their symptoms after eating blueberries.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center credit anthocyanins for the benefits of a study they conducted involving 47 adults who were at least 68 years old and had mild cognitive impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease. Following 16 weeks of consuming freeze-dried blueberry powder (equivalent to one cup of berries), the participants’ cognitive performance and brain function improved. Also, functional magnetic resonance imaging showed increased brain activity in the patients.

According to a study published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal, women ages 25 to 42 who ate more than three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a 32% lower risk of having a heart attack. The benefit is attributed to those beautiful flavonoids.

A study in the British Medical Journal found that consumption of specific whole fruits, including blueberries, is associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Other research has found that people who consume freeze-dried blueberry powder or a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink experienced a decline in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and improvements in mood.

Blueberries are low glycemic, so they make a great snack any time of the day. Sprinkle a handful on cereal, add them to pancake batter, toss a few in a salad, stir a spoonful into a cup of yogurt, or mix them with other fruit and nuts. If you’re ready to nourish your body with this flavonoid-rich fruit, there’s no better place to start than with the recipes right here. They’re perfect for picnics and anytime summer fun.

Want more berry recipes? Try our Fresh Berry Smoothie, Blackberry Bliss, and Blueberry Crisp.

Susan Ojanen is an integrative nutrition coach in Bristol, Tennessee, and owner of smallstepswellness.com. She is passionate about helping clients worldwide achieve their health goals by creating sensible and maintainable lifestyle changes.

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