Good things come in small packages. It’s an oft-said phrase that applies to jewelry, a six-pack of silk scrunchies, a box holding a shiny new fitness tracker…and the humble blueberry.
In season from April through September, blueberries are a perfect, sweet-tart addition to nearly any food—in your morning smoothie, salad, yogurt, ice-cream, or plopped one by one into your mouth on their own. (Unless you’re Violet Beauregarde, in which case you’re probably not the biggest blueberry fan.)
Working blueberries into your regular diet majorly benefits your health, too. A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating up to 150 grams of blueberries daily (about one cup) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15 percent—pretty major! Here, Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D, the study’s lead researcher and a professor at the University of East Anglia, explains just why blueberries are such a great heart-healthy food. Keep reading for all the intel.
1. They can reduce the disk of heart disease. As shown in the study highlighted above, blueberries are great news for your cardiovascular system. The double-blind study—which was performed on 138 overweight people between the ages of 50 and 75— showed that when people ate one cup of blueberries a day, their cardiovascular systems reaped the rewards. The six-month study was the longest trial of its kind. “Blueberries contain powerful bioactive compounds called anthocyanins, part of the flavonoid family, and in lab and animal experiments we know that anthocyanins—responsible for the brilliant red and blue colors in fruits and other plant foods—can reduce inflammation, keep arteries healthy and flexible, improve blood flow, and reduce cholesterol levels,” Dr. Cassidy says. So it makes sense that they can help stave off heart disease, too.
2. Blueberries reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The same study also showed that regular blueberry consumption—again just half a cup to a cup a day—is linked to a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. So not only can the fruit’s sweet taste help satisfy your sweet tooth, it benefits your body a heck of a lot more than something in the vending machine down the hall will.
3. Blueberries have fiber. This is another advantage Dr. Cassidy says the fruit has over sweet snacks that have sugar but little else. One cup of blueberries has 3.5 grams of fiber—you want to aim to get 25 grams a day—which is linked to healthy digestive health and reducing inflammation.
4. They’re good for your gut. Along with the above-mentioned gut-friendly fiber content, scientific studies have shown that blueberries help increase the good bacteria in the gut (at least in rats). This is what Dr. Cassidy and his team of researchers are turning their attention to next. “Our future research will attempt to work out how important the gut microbiome is in determining the health benefits of blueberries as a large amount of the anthocyanins reach the gut before they are metabolized,” he says.
5. Blueberries could be good for your brain. Some studies have shown that blueberry consumption can help with cognitive function in older adults, although more research needs to be done to understand the association. But researchers did find that when participants took a blueberry supplement for four months, it increased activity in the part of the brain responsible for memory, a promising indicator.
Overall, blueberries can certainly be part of a healthy diet for everyone, but if you’re particularly interested in eating foods that are good for your heart, brain, and reduce your risk for developing diabetes, they’re especially a great addition. Talk about small but mighty!