Researchers looked at the benefits of regular blueberry consumption and found that eating a one-cup serving of the fruit daily helped relax stiff arteries, reduce cholesterol levels and minimize the risk of coronary heart disease in people with metabolic syndrome.
A team of researchers from England sought to determine whether regular consumption of blueberries can affect insulin resistance and other risk factors that make up the metabolic syndrome. The term metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of disorders that increases the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. These include hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and obesity.
Currently, there is no accepted mainstream cure for metabolic syndrome. Instead, healthcare professionals recommend maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of one, if not all, of the disorders linked to metabolic syndrome. For instance, regular exercise can reduce abdominal fat, while foods rich in antioxidants can help lower blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
As one of the healthiest superfoods, blueberries are excellent sources of anthocyanins. These plant compounds act as antioxidants that prevent inflammation, which is linked to high blood sugar levels and cholesterol buildup. In fact, the study showed that daily intake of one cup of blueberries over a period of six months helped improve blood vessel function and eased stiff arteries in overweight and obese adults.
Additionally, regular consumption of blueberries increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, especially in non-statin users. The researchers equated the measured increase to a 9.3 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 14.5 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Blueberries contain high amounts of immune-boosting antioxidants, good carbohydrates, protein and important micronutrients that support overall health. Besides their heart-healthy benefits, here are five other reasons why you should eat blueberries.
The anthocyanins in blueberries help fight free radicals, which are produced by the body following excessive sun exposure. Free radical damage to skin cells can cause wrinkles and dark spots over time. Free radicals can also damage DNA irreversibly and lead to skin cancer. Fortunately, blueberries contain high levels of skin-friendly minerals, such as zinc, copper and selenium, that work alongside anthocyanins to protect the skin from free radical damage and prevent premature aging.
Polyphenols, the bioactive compounds present in blueberries, help prevent loss of bone density later in life. Reduced bone density can make you susceptible to bone fractures as you age and increases the risk of bone diseases, such as osteoporosis and fibrous dysplasia. (Related: 25 Health conditions linked to bone loss and osteoporosis.)
Regular consumption of blueberries can prevent degenerative cognitive decline, which is linked to conditions like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Free radicals can harm brain cells responsible for cognitive functions like memory and focus; eating anthocyanin-rich blueberries can help neutralize these free radicals and keep your mind sharp as you age.
A healthy weight-loss diet should include regular consumption of blueberries. These fruits are an excellent source of fiber that helps promote regular bowel movement. Fiber also helps you feel full for longer periods, thus reducing your food cravings in-between meals.
Although blueberries did not have a significant effect on insulin resistance in the study, they can still help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. The fiber in blueberries, in particular, slows the absorption of glucose, and this greatly improves blood sugar levels.
Blueberries provide plenty of health benefits, which is why they're considered a superfood. They are also easy to add to any type of diet. Snack on these nutritious fruits or add them to your favorite yogurt or smoothie to boost your antioxidant intake and heart health.