Blueberries: A Love Letter
Summer is upon us, the warmth has rolled in, the sun is beaming down, and conditions are perfect for the event of the year—blueberry season. Oh, is it just me who cares this much? Well I invite you to pour yourself a tall glass of water and dive into this post with me, because when we’re done, we’ll have to roll you out of here like Violet Beauregard from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Just kidding, blueberries would never cause that effect—but candy might!
First, let’s chat a little bit about the nutritional basics of blueberries. They’re little round nuggets of fiber and sweetness, which is ideal, because if you’re going to have sweetness, you better have fiber. One cup of blueberries is approximately 85 calories and 3.6g of fiber, which is 14% of the daily recommended amount of fiber! Add it to your oatmeal or pair it with a handful of walnuts and you’re well on your way to the recommended 25-30g/day, but it never hurts to aim for more. Fiber is crucial for feeling full, keeping blood sugar levels stable, reducing “bad” cholesterol, and feeding the good bacteria in your gut that fight off bad bacteria and keep us well. Between feeling full and stabilizing blood sugar levels, fiber is a must for anyone with weight loss goals. Speaking of weight loss goals, blueberries have been shown to help combat obesity in some studies done on animals. (1, 2)
The best part is, fiber isn’t even the most exciting nutritional trait about blueberries. In fact, most of the research done on blueberries focuses on antioxidants and polyphenols. Fancy, right? Antioxidants are an important part of any healthy lifestyle because we are bombarded every day with oxidative stress (think, rust but everywhere in our body) and antioxidants come in and help to sweep away the old, damaged cells and keep our cells fit and vibrant. Polyphenols are compounds unique to plants that are generally protective to plants but especially helpful when consumed by humans—for example, the pucker you experience from a nice glass of dry red wine is due to resveratrol, a polyphenol. Talk about a “fun” fact.
What sort of conditions benefit from antioxidants and polyphenols you ask? Research shows that these compounds (especially from blueberries) have profound effects on just about any disease of inflammation: Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, cancer, depression, just to name a few. One study in particular showed that a group of adults fed the equivalent of about 2 cups of blueberries per day resulted in greater blood flow to the brain, meaning better memory recall, and better mental processing. (3) In kids, a similar study showed that 7-10 year olds who ate 30g of blueberry powder before taking a mentally demanding test resulted in increased mental speed and attentive control, though ideally, just eat whole blueberries. (4)
Personally, I think the coolest study to come across my desk has got to be the one that demonstrated a connection between Vitamin D and blueberry polyphenols. As we know, blueberries are in season during the summer, and it is always best to consume foods in their peak season for the health of the planet, as well as ourselves. That being said, summer is a time characterized by longer days which equals more sunshine. Vitamin D is a hormone produced in the body when our skin is exposed to sun, so amazingly, researchers found that when blueberry polyphenols were consumed, they joined forces with Vitamin D specifically to power up the immune system. (5) This study is not only important for helping understand the immune system, but also for appreciating the importance of eating foods in season—these things are not by accident! Mother nature is quite the braniac, and you could be too with the help of this fantastic little berry.
Jenna Montana, MS is a clinical nutrition and lifestyle specialist receiving her Doctorate of Chiropractic degree from Logan University in August 2018. Dedicated to providing personalized care, Jenna is certified to treat utilizing Acupuncture, holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition and is undergoing Functional Medicine training by the Institute for Functional Medicine, an industry leader. Her passions for interpersonal connection and the influence of food on wellness drive her to assist patients in achieving their optimal state of health through safe, drug-free approaches.
Wu, T., Tang, Q., Gao, Z., Yu, Z., Song, H., Zheng, X., & Chen, W. (2013). Blueberry and Mulberry Juice Prevent Obesity Development in C57BL/6 Mice. PLoS ONE, 8(10), e77585. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0077585
Seymour, E. M., Tanone, I. I., Urcuyo-Llanes, D. E., Lewis, S. K., Kirakosyan, A., Kondoleon, M. G., . . . Bolling, S. F. (2011). Blueberry Intake Alters Skeletal Muscle and Adipose Tissue Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Activity and Reduces Insulin Resistance in Obese Rats. Journal of Medicinal Food,14(12), 1511-1518. doi:10.1089/jmf.2010.0292
Joanna L. Bowtell, Zainie Aboo-Bakkar, Myra Conway, Anna-Lynne R. Adlam, Jonathan Fulford. Enhanced task related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 2017; DOI: 10.1139/apnm-2016-0550
Whyte, A. R., Schafer, G., & Williams, C. M. (2017). The effect of cognitive demand on performance of an executive function task following wild blueberry supplementation in 7 to 10 years old children. Food & Function,8(11), 4129-4138. doi:10.1039/c7fo00832e
Chunxiao Guo, Brian Sinnott, Brenda Niu, Malcolm B. Lowry, Mary L. Fantacone, Adrian F. Gombart. Synergistic induction of human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide gene expression by vitamin D and stilbenoids. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201300266