Blueberries and Health

BlueberriesWhere all berries are valuable sources of minerals, vitamins, and other antioxidants, wild blueberries (of all berries) score the second highest ORAC value (6552).  Possibly this is the reason why blueberries have so many health benefits. Blueberries as part of a balanced, complete diet of whole unprocessed foods are a wonderful source of antioxidants, macro and micro nutrients, that synergistically contribute to optimum cellular health. Healthy cells do not become cancerous.

Since 2005, blueberries have been among a category of functional foods called superfruits having the favorable combination of nutrient richness, antioxidant strength, emerging research evidence for health benefits, and versatility for manufacturing popular consumer products.

Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with notably high levels of vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, the essential dietary mineral manganese, and dietary fiber. One serving provides a relatively low glycemic load score of 4 out of 100 per day.

Wild blueberries especially contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments, and various phytochemicals linked to reducing risks of some diseases, including inflammation and different cancers.

Blueberries and Cancer

Researchers at Tufts University recently analyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capabilities. Among those fruits and vegetables, blueberries, especially wild blueberries showed great capacity to destroy free radicals. Those free radicals could, if not taken care of and neutralized, damage the collagen matrix of cells and tissues, which can result in cataracts, glaucoma, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, peptic ulcers, heart disease and various types of cancer, including colon cancer, lung cancer, tongue cancer and skin cancer.

Researchers have shown that blueberry anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, flavonols, and tannins inhibit mechanisms of cancer cell development and inflammation in vitro. Similar to red grape, some blueberry species contain in their skins significant levels of the phytochemical resveratrol.

Ellagitannins, one compound found in blueberries has the ability to block metabolic pathways that could initiate and promote of cancer even induce programmed cell death to existing cancer cells. Kaempferol, another valuable antioxidant, showed to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent in women who diets provided the greatest amounts.

Other new studies suggest that certain substances found in blueberries have an inhibiting effect on the growth of blood vessel tumors in infants and children. According to a report in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling those particular tumors are among the most common tumors in infants. In infants, those tumors can be disfiguring and in some cases threaten the health of a child.
Besides all those wonderful news, please note that blueberries are only one part in the prevention and treatment of cancer. There are other dietary and live style factors that need to be considered as well.

Blueberries and Intestinal Health
Both diarrhea as well as constipation can be relieved with blueberries. Their high tannin concentration helps reduce inflammation in the digestive as well as in the urinary tract, killing bacteria that cause food borne illnesses.

Blueberries and Vascular Health and Weight Loss
Blueberries provide very good amounts of soluble fiber pectin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and assist in weight loss. It may surprise you to hear but a cup of blueberries provides greater cardio-protective antioxidant capability than a cup of red wine.

The pigments in blueberries, which are responsible for their color, help reduce inflammation and assist to improve the structure the vascular system. They further enhance the effects of vitamin C and inhibit enzymes from cleaving the collagen matrix. Maintaining a stable collagen matrix is crucial for healthy bones, tendons, cartilage and connective tissue. The collagen matrix keeps skin from wrinkling and sagging.

Blueberries and Eye Health
In order to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, experts suggest to eat three or more servings of fruit per day including blueberries.
Blueberries are packed with eye healthy and vision preserving carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as flavonoids like rutin, resveratrol and quercitin besides a wealth of minerals needed for vision and overall health, including selenium and zinc.

At a 2007 symposium on berry health benefits were reports showing consumption of blueberries (and similar berry fruits including cranberries) may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of aging.

Feeding blueberries to animals lowers brain damage in experimental stroke. Research at Rutgers has also shown that blueberries may help prevent urinary tract infections.

Other animal studies found that blueberry consumption lowered cholesterol and total blood lipid levels, possibly affecting symptoms of heart disease. Additional research showed that blueberry consumption in rats altered glycosaminoglycans which are vascular cell components affecting control of blood pressure.

So, go ahead and enjoy those wonderful berries.

Here is a suggestion for a quick. delicious, wholesome breakfast, mid-morning or afternoon snack:

Very-Berry Shake

In a blender combine 1 ripe banana, 1 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen) and 1 cup of strawberries. Add ½ cup of rice milk or water, 1 teaspoon of raw honey (optional) and ½ cup bran cereal.

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