Maybe Violet Beauregarde shouldn’t have freaked out when she morphed into a giant blueberry in Willy Wonka’s factory. Despite her juiciness, she was likely healthier with more resilient muscles and maybe even smarter. That’s because blueberries are the fittest of fruits. Here’s why they should be in your nutrition plan.
1. THEY MAY KEEP YOU HEALTHIER AND YOUNGER.
Blueberries are loaded with 150 mg. of anthocyanins per cup, powerful antioxidants which also paint the fruit their unique color. Antioxidants seem to reduce the cell damage that ages our skin and other organs and may also help to prevent diseases linked to oxidative stress, including arthritis, atherosclerosis, and cancer. An article in Advances in Nutrition surveyed recent blueberry studies and highlighted the fruit’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions and its beneficial effects on blood circulation, glucose regulation, and digestion, concluding: “These aspects have implications in degenerative diseases and conditions as well as the aging process.”
2. THEY MAY BOOST WORKOUT RECOVERY.
A study looked at the impact of fruit extracts and other substances on muscle that had suffered oxidative stress similar to what happens during workouts, and the blueberry was the clear winner in reducing that muscle damage, therefore assisting recovery.
3. THEY CAN HELP YOUR THINKING.
Anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier and decrease the brain’s oxidative stress, the sort that impairs mental ability in old age. Among 16,010 women over 70 participating in a long-range study, those who consumed two or more half-cup servings of blueberries or strawberries per week experienced slower mental decline. The effect was the equivalent to 1.5 to 2.5 years of aging, and the greater the intake of berries the slower the decline.
4. THEY’RE LOW GLYCEMIC.
Depending on the variety, blueberries are between 40-53 on the glycemic index. Anything under 56 is low. That means, despite their sweet taste, they don’t quickly elevate blood glucose, and aren’t especially fattening when eaten in moderation.
5. THEY’RE (RELATIVELY) CHEAP.
Acai berries are also a superfood. Like blueberries, their dark color signals their abundance of anthocyanins. But “Brazilian blueberries,” as they’re also known, can be overhyped due to exoticness. There is more research on the benefits of going blue than going acai, and, outside of South America, blueberries are easier to find and cheaper.
6. THEY’RE EASY ADDITIONS.
Whether fresh or frozen (they’re as healthy either way), blueberries make the ideal complement to many foods: oatmeal, yogurt, salads, pancakes. Casein in dairy has been shown in a study to lower the antioxidant activity of blueberries, but less-great isn’t a reason to never top your milky cereal or Greek yogurt with this amazing fruit. Even consider adding some, in berry or powder form, to your post-workout whey shake to aid recovery. Like Violet Beauregarde, go blue.
Related: The Workout Benefits of Green Tea