Blueberries are not only popular, ranking second only to strawberries as the most eaten berry in the U.S. they also have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.
Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath (Ericaceae) family whose other members include the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the berry’s surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Blueberries are at their best from May through October when they are in season. More species of blueberries are native to North America than any other continent. The U.S. cultivates and supplies over half of all blueberries on a global basis with Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon and North Carolina the states most heavily involved in blueberry farming.
Some of the health benefits associated with blueberries include:
- Whole Body Antioxidant Support – virtually every body system studied shows strengthened antioxidant status following the consumption of blueberries.
- Cardiovascular Benefits – blueberry intake has been shown to improve blood fat balances, including total reduction in cholesterol, raising of HDL cholesterol and lowering of triglycerides. At the same time, blueberry intake has been shown to help protect blood components (like LDL cholesterol) from oxygen damage that could lead to eventual clogging of the blood vessels.
- Cognitive Benefits – By lowering the risk of oxidative stress in our nerve cells, blueberries help us maintain smoothly working nerve cells and healthy cognitive function. In one study involving older adults (with an average age of 76 years), 12 weeks of daily blueberry consumption was enough to improve scores on two different tests of cognitive function including memory. Blueberries might turn out to be beneficial not only for improvement of memory, but for slowing down or postponing the onset of other cognitive problems frequently associated with aging.
- Blood Sugar Benefits – Research has shown that blueberries (along with other berries) have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with blood sugar problems.
- Eye Health – The retina of the eye is at higher than normal risk of oxidative stress. Foods unique in phytonutrient antioxidants, such as blueberries, are often investigated for their ability to help protect the retina from oxygen damage.
- Anti-cancer Benefits – Types of cancer already studied with respect to blueberry intake include breast cancer, colon cancer, esophageal cancer, and cancers of the small intestine.
- Blood Pressure – In both men and women, and in study participants of many different ages, routine blueberry intake has been shown to support healthy blood pressure. In individuals with high blood pressure, blueberry intake has significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressures. In individuals with health blood pressure, blueberry intake has been shown to help maintain these healthy pressures.
If you want to maximize your antioxidant benefits from blueberries, go organic! A recent study has directly compared the total antioxidant capacity of organically grown versus non-organically grown highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L., var. Bluecrop) and found some very impressive results for the organically grown berries. Organically grown blueberries turned out to have significantly higher concentrations of total phenol antioxidants and total anthocyanin antioxidants than conventionally grown blueberries, as well as significantly higher total antioxidant capacity.
- A recent Northwestern report shows that the debt of young adults takes a major toll on their physical and emotional well-being. The study, published in Social Science & Medicine, reveals that participants between ages 24 and 32 who have heavy debt report higher levels of depression and stress than young adults who owe less. They also have worse general health and higher diastolic blood pressure – precursor to heart attacks and strokes (Social Science & Medicine)
- Commuters who bike to work are the happiest – have the highest sense of overall well-being – compared with those who drive cars or use public transportation, according to a Portland State University study. (thealternativedaily.com)
- Recent studies show that hibiscus tea can lower blood pressure as effectively as some standard hypertension drugs can. Recent research suggests it has diuretic properties, it opens the arteries, and it appears to act as a natural angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, which means it slows the release of hormones that constrict blood vessels. In addition, hibiscus boosts immune function and provides valuable antioxidants. (motherearthnews.com)
- Americans who have been unemployed for a year or more are significantly more likely than those who have been unemployed for shorter periods of time to be obese, according to Gallup. One in three long-term unemployed Americans (33%) are obese, compared with 23% of those who have been out of work for two weeks or less. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are also more common among those who have been out of work for a year or longer. (gallup.com)
- Although almost seven in 10 Americans (69%) consider talking on a handheld cell phone while driving to be dangerous or very dangerous, almost three-quarters (74%) admit to talking on the phone while driving-more than half of these (55%) while holding the phone. One in five Americans (21%) talk on the phone frequently while driving. (harrisinteractive.com)
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