Blueberry health benefits almost seem unending. Those little dark blue berries are so rich with flavor and are an antioxidant powerhouse that they have been placed on the list of super foods. The blueberry health benefits have been studied for years and the berries have been used for everything from food to medicine for hundreds if not thousands of years. The following is a list of history and known facts of blueberry health benefits.
History of the Blueberries
The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North America, belonging to the genus Vaccinium. Revered by the Northeastern Native American's these super berries where gathered and eaten fresh or preserved by drying in the sun. They were used for many things in the Native American culture. They were added to soups, stews and even ground into powder and add to flavor meats. Not only where the berries used the juice, leaves and roots were also used for medicinal purposes. The juice was used to treat coughs and a tea made from the leaves was thought to be good for the blood. They also used blueberries to die baskets and cloth. For these reasons much folklore developed around the blueberry.
The blueberry was even part of our original Thanksgiving .When the Pilgrims first came to the New World many would die during those first winter months with little food or shelter. The local Indians would later teach the Pilgrims to plant corn and gather and use native plants, the blueberry being one of those plants. They would teach them to preserve the berries and many years later canning would be used. Even during the Civil War blueberries were canned and made into drinks and sent to the soldiers.
In 1910 Dr. Frederick Coville backed by Elizabeth White daughter to the owner of White's Bog a prominent cranberry grower of the time, did what many other had tried and failed which was to develope the first domesticated highbush blueberry. Their work resulted in today's cultivated highbush blueberry industry. By choosing the most desirable wild plants in a 20 mile radius of White's Bog they developed blueberries that could be farmed as a commercial crop. In 1916 they were producing berries that were plump, sweet and juicy, making them easier to pick than there wild counter parts and starting a new industry that still thrives today.
Blueberry Health Benefits
Enough about history let's get back to the reason you are reading this, the blueberry health benefits. The reason blueberries are so healthy is their extreme amount of antioxidants, beating out more than two dozen other fruits for the most cellular antioxidant activity. Fruits with high levels of antioxidants have been found to be an anti-inflammatory and prevent oxidative stress which is linked to chronic disease and aging.
As early as January of 2010 studies have shown the health benefits associated with the blueberry and its juice. The study released data showing evidence that the consumption of blueberry juice does improve memory loss in older adults. Going along with past research that found blueberries may help reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Research on animals has shown they also helped improve learning capacities and motor skills of older animals, making them equal to much younger ones. Other benefits to the brain are protection against damage from ischemic stroke.
Your eyes are another area that are helped by blueberry health benefits, improving night vision, quickening the response time when going from light to dark and vice versa. Several studies have also found they help ease eye fatigue and when combined with other fruits equaling three or more servings a day may lower the risk of age related macular degeneration.
Moving down the body next is the heart and vascular system. As stated before the high antioxidant levels of blueberries make them a heart healthy anti-inflammatory. Blueberry supplementation has also been shown to reduce cholesterol levels in blood plasma and bad cholesterol in general. They could help regulate blood pressure and have an over all positive effect on blood vessel function. Some research has even show that blueberry wine is more heart friendly than red wine because of the higher amount of the antioxidant anthocyanin. Which brings us to our next blueberry health benefit, preventing urinary tract infections, like cranberries blueberries contain compounds that prevent the bacteria that causes the infection from attaching to the bladder wall. They can also help relieve diarrhea and constipation
Cancer prevention may be the greatest of blueberry health benefits, minimizing free radical damage. High in soluble fiber pectin blueberries have been shown to prevent bile acid from becoming a potentially cancer causing form and laboratory studies have shown protection from colon and ovarian cancers.
As you can see the blueberry is a nutritional rock star, helping the entire body function better. So next time your looking to improve your health grab yourself a big bowl of blueberries.