Blueberry offers great benefits for eye health and against cellular aging, but not only. Discover all the properties of blueberries.
The blueberry is a very common shrub in the woods and along the paths in the mountainous areas. There are various species but the richest in properties is the Vaccinium Myrtillus. The blueberry has a tall and branchy stem, a meandering root and oval deciduous pale green and finely ribbed leaves.
The flowers are white or slightly pink and the berries are red or purplish. For therapeutic purposes the dried berries and leaves are used. The berries are harvested when fully ripe and jams, drinks or can be eaten fresh.
Generally there are two types: the wild bilberry and the American blueberry. The wild blueberry is more difficult to find and is generally harvested in the summer directly from the plant in the “wild” state or, if you are lucky, you can find them in farmers’ markets. The bilberry that we find in large retailers is almost always the American bilberry, also called giant bilberry due to its size. However, both belong to the genus Vaccinium. Furthermore, it is interesting to know that the flavor of the wild blueberry is more tart and “strong” than that of the cultivated blueberry, which is sweeter and more delicate (they are therefore a good solution for making blueberries even for children). Let’s see below the properties of this small fruit.
What do blueberries contain?
Nutritional values Blueberries are low-calorie fruits. In fact, 100 grams contain only 25 Kcal, they are therefore an excellent food to be included in low-calorie diets. As for macronutrients, blueberry is rich in water but low in fat and protein. On the other hand, the fiber content is good, even if on average compared to other vegetables.
From the point of view of micronutrients, however, blueberry is a treasure trove of vitamins, minerals and, above all, antioxidants. Specifically, the bilberry contains various elements such as tannins, sugars, mineral salts (calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium), flavonoids, vitamins A, C and group B and bilberry, a pigment with strong antioxidant qualities and responsible for numerous properties attributed to this berry. For greater clarity, we report below the table with the nutritional values of bilberry.
Nutritional values per 100g of blueberries:
- Kcal: 25
- Carbohydrates: 5.1 g
- Proteins: 0.9 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Fibers: 3.1 g
- Waterfall: 85 g
- Iron: 0.7 mg
- Soccer: 41 mg
- Magnesium: 5 mg
- Potassium: 160 mg
- Phosphorus: 31 mg
- C vitamin: 15 mg
- ß-carotene: 78 µg
- Vitamin B1: 0.02 mg
- Vitamin B2: 0.05 mg
- Vitamin E: 0.61 mg
- Vitamin K: 19.30 µg
What are blueberries good for? The benefits
As known, blueberry has numerous beneficial properties, in particular it is an excellent antioxidant and is useful for blood circulation, but not only. Let’s see below all the beneficial properties of blueberry.
✓ Antioxidant properties
Blueberries are known to be a fruit with a high antioxidant power. In fact, these berries are believed to have some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in the plant world. The consumption of blueberries, in fact, considerably increases the level of antioxidants present in the body.
Antioxidants are essential elements to counter the effects of an excess of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to aging. In addition, they perform an anti-inflammatory action and are useful in countering the so-called “chronic low-grade inflammation”, an asymptomatic inflammatory state believed to be the basis of numerous pathologies. Therefore, consuming antioxidant foods such as blueberries helps prevent and maintain general health.
✓ Benefits for the heart
Oxidative damage is also problematic for the cardiovascular system since, when the “bad” LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it forms dangerous atherosclerotic plaques, increasing the risk of heart disease. In this regard, the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants, including blueberries, has been associated with a reduced cardiovascular risk. A study also found that the consumption of about 350 grams of fresh blueberries per day reduced blood pressure and the oxidation of LDL cholesterol by about 20-25% in 8 weeks in obese subjects. Therefore, it can be deduced how the regular consumption of blueberries is able to carry out a protective action against the entire cardiovascular system.
✓ Improve brain functions
Once again, antioxidants are responsible for this property of blueberries. In fact, by carrying out a protective and anti-inflammatory action, blueberries have shown the ability to significantly reduce some markers of cognitive impairment and improve memory in elderly subjects.
✓ Useful against diabetes
Although they have a moderate sugar content, the consumption of blueberries is associated with a lowering of blood sugar. In this regard, scientific evidence suggests that anthocyanins present in blueberries have beneficial effects on insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. Better insulin sensitivity reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. These “antidiabetic” effects occur both with the juice and with the extracts of blueberry, as well as with the consumption of fresh fruit. Cranberry leaves are also traditionally used as a good hypoglycemic agent.
✓ Urinary tract infections
Although it is a characteristic mainly attributed to cranberry, it seems that also the bilberry can contribute to the elimination of the bacteria that cause cystitis thanks to its “anti-adhesive” properties, that is able to prevent bacteria from binding to the bladder wall.
✓ Benefits for sight
The anthocyanins contained in the fruit are able to improve eyesight, especially in low light conditions. Also, regularly including blueberries in your diet helps protect your eyes from age-related macular degeneration. This is thought to be due to the improved blood flow and oxygen to the eyes and the presence of high concentrations of antioxidants.
✓ Benefits in case of diarrhea
Thanks to the presence of fibers, tannins and antioxidants, blueberries have a beneficial effect on the digestive system, helping to regulate its functioning and prevent episodes of diarrhea. Furthermore, polyphenols appear to have a positive effect on irritable bowel syndrome.
✓ Protect capillaries and improve circulation
Bilberries are also known to be a valuable aid in improving circulation and strengthening capillaries. Various factors come into play at the base of this characteristic. Specifically, blueberries are good for capillaries as they support the connective tissue, giving a greater vascular tone, limit the formation of free radicals, inhibit platelet aggregation by exerting an anti-thrombotic effect and improve the function of the vascular endothelium, that is, of the monolayer. cell of the inner wall of the vascular system. The recommended intake of anthocyanins to improve blood circulation is about 120mg per day, achievable through supplements or with the consumption of 250/300 gr of fresh fruits or 100-120 ml of cranberry juice per day.
How many blueberries to eat
Blueberries are fruits and, as such, a serving is equivalent to about 150 grams or, more in practice, a full fist. As for the juice, it is recommended to take 125 ml per day, which can be diluted with water. The guidelines for a healthy diet recommend the consumption of 2 portions a day of fruit, therefore, when they are in season (in summer), these small fruits can also be consumed every day, for example for breakfast or as a snack, to make full of antioxidants. In fact, eating one serving of blueberries a day is enough to guarantee us many of the benefits we have seen above.
How to use blueberries
In addition to being consumed as such as a snack, blueberries can be used for the preparation of delicious jams or other sweet recipes, such as cakes, pies or for the preparation of fruit extracts. They can also be eaten in the evening, for example as a substitute for a snack if you feel like something tasty after dinner. However, this fruit can also be taken in ways other than simple culinary use to take advantage of its therapeutic benefits. Let’s see them below.
Juice prepared from berries is good for the whole organism and almost completely preserves the properties of the fruits. It can be used for antioxidant purposes and to improve circulation. A spoonful is usually taken in the morning, on an empty stomach. If you prefer, you can dilute it in a little water. However, for the posology, it is always good to refer to what is indicated on the package or recommended by the specialist.
The blueberry decoction is prepared with about 3 tablespoons of dried berries, boiled for 5 minutes in 1 liter of water and drunk throughout the day. It can be used against diarrhea, thanks to its astringent and soothing properties.
The blueberry mother tincture is prepared by macerating the leaves and berries. It is generally used as a stimulant of gastric functions, to improve vision, circulation and as a possible hypoglycemic and antidiarrheal. It can be found in herbal medicine and should be taken following the doses shown on the package or as recommended by the herbalist.
One of the best ways to take advantage of all the properties of blueberry is to take it in the form of standardized extracts, supplements available in pharmacies or herbalists based on anthocyanins. Blueberry supplements have antioxidant power and improve microcirculation, as well as offering benefits to the eye. The recommended amount of anthocyanins for health effects is around 120 mg per day. For the methods of taking it is good to refer to what is written on the package. Furthermore, before taking blueberry supplements it is important to seek the advice of the doctor as they are not without contraindications, as we will see shortly.
Popular use recognizes blueberry jam as a regulator of intestinal functions. With regard to jam, then, it should be noted that, although the vitamin content is much lower than the fresh fruit, the antioxidant content is better preserved due to the greater heat stability of the anthocyanins. Therefore, consuming blueberry jam is a good strategy to benefit from the fruit’s antioxidant qualities.
Blueberry and raspberry smoothie
Fresh blueberries can also be used to make a delicious and refreshing smoothie. To prepare 2 glasses you need about 150 grams of fresh blueberries, 150 grams of raspberries, 100 grams of Greek yogurt, 100 ml of milk (or vegetable drink of your choice), a teaspoon of chia seeds and rape coconut. Put all the ingredients (with the exception of the rape coconut) in a blender, then operate the appliance for a few minutes and blend everything. If the consistency is too thick, you can add a little more milk, until the desired consistency is obtained; at this point it is poured into glasses and decorated with a sprinkling of rape coconut.
How to store blueberries
The fresh blueberry season runs from June to September. Before buying them, check that the fruits are firm, intact and free from mold. Once brought home, the blueberries should be washed under running water and dried thoroughly (or simply left to dry in the open air, avoiding direct sun). Once dry, they can be stored in the fridge for a few days in the drawer dedicated to fruit and vegetables, even better if in airtight containers.
However, if you want to consume them even out of season, blueberries lend themselves very well to being frozen. After having washed and dried them carefully, arrange them on a baking sheet or tray covered with parchment paper and spread them out so that they are well spaced, then place them in the freezer for a few hours. Afterwards, the frozen blueberries can be transferred to the special food bags and stored in the freezer for even 4 or 5 months.
How to grow Blueberries
The species that is most suitable for cultivation is the Blueberry. Blueberry is a plant that resists winter cold well, even if frosts can ruin the flowers and berries. It is therefore advisable to grow it in a place sheltered from atmospheric agents, while in summer it is good to avoid direct sun exposure as the roots of the blueberry are sensitive to drought.
The soil must be well drained to avoid water stagnation, free of weeds and have a basically acidic pH (about 5). Since it is difficult to grow blueberries starting from seeds, it is advisable to take the seedlings in a nursery and then transplant them into a larger pot or in the garden. The best time to buy seedlings is towards the end of autumn, to be transplanted in early spring.
During fruiting, which runs from March to October, the blueberry needs regular watering, making sure that the soil is dry between one watering and the next. The berries are harvested during the summer season when they turn a dark purple / red color.
When not to eat blueberries: contraindications
In moderate doses, blueberry has no particular contraindications and side effects, but excessive consumption can cause diarrhea. In this regard, although we have seen above how blueberries are useful in case of diarrhea, in some individuals they can have the opposite effect. This can happen in people with fructose intolerance, blueberry allergy, sensitivity to salicylates or in case of consumption of not very fresh blueberries.
Bilberry extracts and excessive consumption of fruits can interfere with anticoagulant, antiplatelet and antidiabetic drugs, therefore it is very important to seek the advice of your doctor before consuming blueberries in case you follow a therapy based on these drugs. Finally, prolonged use of the leaves can reduce iron absorption.