For centuries, wild blueberries have grown abundantly throughout the northern climates of North America -particularly in Maine, Atlantic Canada and Quebec. They can be spotted while trekking through the woods, where people can snatch them right off of bushes and pop them into their mouths. While enjoyed simply for their taste for many years, we now know that this succulent fruit also provides numerous documented health benefits. Since the 1970s, blueberries have become one of the most highly researched foods of the early 21st century, the darlings of scientists and crowned, by the media, as a “superfood.”
So what exactly makes the blueberry so super?
According to the Wild Blueberry Association, blueberries have been the subject of hundreds of research papers, the first of which was published by Sir James Sawyer, MD touting their gastrointestinal benefits way back in 1903. Since then, hundreds of clinical trials and studies have continued to confirm the power of the blueberry. According to the USDA, wild blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity per serving, compared to more than 20 other fruits. Study after study shows how the high antioxidant activity of the blueberry can protect cells from oxidative stress.
Scientists continue to find new evidence that a diet enriched with wild blueberries has the potential to help improve brain function. A growing body of research supports the beneficial effects of blueberries on the brain, showing that they have a positive effect on cognition, motor skills and short-term memory.
Wild blueberries are rich in compounds known as anthocyanins, which also aid in maintaining memory function. One study showed that adults who supplemented their diets with wild blueberries saw improved memory function and mood. All of this research is promising for individuals seeking cognitive support. With all the talk of “biochemical debris” in the brain, it should be noted that some refer to blueberry extract as helpful for cleaning the brain.
In addition to brain health, blueberries are also heart-friendly. The berries’ high anthocyanin content may help keep blood vessels healthy and properly dilated, improving blood flow. Wild blueberries have also been found to support a healthy inflammatory response.
As Sir James Sawyer suggested back in 1903, blueberries can benefit the gut. His research helped show that wild blueberry consumption resulted in a specific bifidogenic effect, meaning that certain populations of bifidobacteria, the “healthy bacteria,” were positively affected. Daily consumption of blueberries has been linked to supporting healthy blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity as well.
Thus, we see that in a tiny blueberry lives a universe of health benefits that are just now on the cusp of being fully realized and appreciated.
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