Berry Powerful Stuff: Virtually Miraculous Blueberries

As my patients will tell you, I am a berry fanatic. I eat them at every opportunity, and advise many of my patients to do so as well. Why? Because berries are sweet, delicious and happen to be packed with disease-fighting phytochemicals like anthocyanins and ellagic acid. And what’s so great about phytochemicals? Well, they can prevent and even reverse serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers and even help lower cholesterol levels. They’re also high in vitamin C and soluble fiber, which helps reduce the bad form of cholesterol – without negative side-effects and plenty of good ones!

Blueberries: The Super, Super Food
Though I am a fan of all berries, my all-time favorite has to be blueberries because they truly are a superfood — with one of the highest concentrations of antioxidants and phytochemicals in the entire fruit and vegetable kingdom. In fact, in a Tufts University study ranked blueberries #1 in antioxidant activity compared to 40 other commercially available fruits and vegetables — so why not go with a winner! All it takes is a half cup of blueberries to get the same antioxidant power as you would from eating — not to mention buying, cleaning and storing — five servings of some other fruits and vegetables.

Look Ma, No Sugar Rush!
More reasons to love blueberries? Let me count the ways: They’re versatile, portable, make a great snack, are easy to incorporate into any meal and have a longer shelf life than other berries. And for those of us with sugar issues, blueberries are a satisfying, sweet treat with low glycemic index, so they won’t stimulate sugar rushes and insulin swings if eaten in moderation.

They Could Save Your Life
Believe it or not, blueberries might just save your life or make it a whole lot better. How can a little berry do all that? Well, for starters, blueberries contain high levels of ellagic acid, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. They also have anthocyanin, a natural antioxidant, which has brain boosting, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects. Count me in!

Keep Blood Pressure In Check
A recent study compared blueberry eaters with those who abstained, and found that participants who ate just one serving of blueberries per week drove down their risk of hypertension by an impressive 10%. My suggested dose for those trying to keep hypertension at bay? Eat a serving of blues every day to cut the risk even further.

Feed Your Brain, Save Your Heart
Blueberries can support the prevention of all sorts of diseases from heart disease and stroke to Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, to arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, to fighting infection and boosting the immune system. Studies also indicate that the nutrients in blueberries may help maintain memory, healthy skin and healthy eyes.

Look Better, See Better, Think Better
Blueberries also provide one of the most concentrated sources of flavonoids, a class of polyphenols, which may help improve vision, memory and concentration, and slow down aging. They also contain other polyphenols which have been shown to have anti-bacterial qualities and tannins, which reduce inflammation in the digestive system. They have a high fiber content, and much of that fiber is pectin, which is soluble fiber and helps lower cholesterol levels.

Blueberries are also rich in many vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and zinc — minerals that are frequently deficient in the diets of most Americans.

You Can Take Them With You
So how to work more blueberries into your day? Here’s your berry smart strategy: start the day with a blueberry avocado smoothie and carry a container of washed, ready-to-eat blueberries in your bag each day so you’ve always got a quick, healthy snack within reach.

Eat Them Year Round!
To get the health benefits of blueberries, it doesn’t matter that much if they’re fresh, frozen, canned or dried, though I recommend fresh and organic whenever possible. If you buy frozen blueberries, check to see if they are frozen into a solid clump. That’s an indication that the berries have been thawed and refrozen, possibly more than once. Instead, look for berries rattle around the bag before you buy them to get the best possible nutritional bang for your buck.

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