Most fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, but blueberries are having a moment. Some say they're the secret to glowing skin, others label them a "superfood." But just how good can one tiny berry be?
Even through ever-changing nutrition science and trends that come and go, blueberries continue to be viewed as a powerhouse—and for good reason. Multiple new studies have linked blueberries with healthier aging, better memory, decreased inflammation and more. Keep reading to learn about blueberry nutrition, why they're so good for you and how to enjoy them in your diet.
Related: Our Best Healthy Blueberry Recipes
Pictured Recipe: Blueberry-Banana Overnight Oats
One serving (about 1/2 cup) of blueberries delivers:
- 42 calories
- 11 g carbohydrate
- 2 g fiber
- 1 g protein
- 7 g sugars
- 4 mg calcium
- 57 mg potassium
- 7 mg vitamin C
Compared to many other fruits, blueberries contain less naturally occurring sugar, if you are looking for something less sweet.
However, all blueberries may not be created equal. There is a growing body of research supporting wild blueberries as the "blueberriest blueberry," a term coined by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. Wild blueberries are smaller than cultivated blueberries, but they pack a punch of blueberry flavor and nutrition. Wild blueberries have twice the antioxidant capacity of ordinary blueberries.
Frozen blueberries are a great option for when fresh berries are not in season. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen at peak ripeness, which also means peak nutrition. Their texture changes slightly as they thaw, but frozen berries are perfect for smoothies, baking and parfaits. When buying frozen, check the ingredients to make sure there's no added sugar. Frozen blueberries are great to keep on hand in your freezer and are usually cheaper than fresh berries (especially when they're not in season).
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps stave off age-related disease and cognitive decline, along with many other chronic illnesses. Blueberries, in particular, have a reputation for being jam-packed with antioxidants compared to other common fruits. Antioxidants are compounds that protect against the oxidative cell damage that naturally occurs with age, chronic sun exposure, environmental toxins and stress.
One recent study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, compared people who were given a daily drink with 11 grams wild blueberry powder to those who got an antioxidant-extract drink supplemented with fiber. After a month, the people who got the wild blueberries had better blood flow and their immune response got more of a boost (chalk one up for the benefits of real food versus supplements).
Another systematic review of 11 studies, including children, older adults and adults with mild cognitive impairments investigated blueberries' potential benefit to cognitive function. For children who were given a blueberry supplement, there were consistent improvements in memory and executive function, which relates to the ability to control behavior. Older adults and adults with mild cognitive impairments receiving blueberry supplements experienced these benefits as well as improved psychomotor function, including coordination and dexterity.
Don't Miss! Blueberry Healthy Food Guide
Pictured Recipe: Low-Carb Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberries aren't just brain food, as it turns out. A study conducted at King's College in London studied the effects of eating blueberries on heart health and cardiovascular disease. In just one month, there were significant improvements in blood clotting and blood vessel function. The researchers suspect that anthocyanins, the pigments that give blueberries their color, interact with other compounds in the berries to confer these benefits.
Related: Your Anti-Aging Diet
Pictured Recipe: Strawberry-Blueberry-Banana Smoothie
Whether you're worried about Alzheimer's disease or dementia, or just want to stay sharp, blueberries may help you. Flavonoids, including the anthocyanins in blueberries, protect and strengthen connections between neurons, making it easier for them to communicate.
In a recent study, older people who were given daily antioxidant-rich blueberry and grape extract had improved memory and learning skills after six months.
To help your memory, you may want to try the MIND diet (which includes blueberries). The MIND diet is a fusion of the heart-healthy DASH diet and the all-star Mediterranean diet. Together, they form an eating pattern that can help keep you sharp. For more information, check out the best foods to eat to keep your brain young.
Pictured Recipe: Blueberry Tart with Walnut Crust
All things considered, the mighty but tiny blueberry has some major health benefits. Whether you enjoy them fresh, blended into smoothies or baked into a whole-grain muffin, there are plenty of reasons to get your fill. With their potential benefits to aging, memory and heart health, we continue to believe in the power of blueberries.