Functional Foods: Blueberries
By Christine “Cricket” Giles, M.S., B.S., Certified Nutrition Consultant
Blueberries are antioxidant powerhouses that contain approximately 380 units of antioxidants per cup and contain double that amount if they are wild! They are full of nutrients that can help decrease inflammation throughout the body, protect against cancer and chronic disease such as heart disease, boost the immune system, protect organs such as the brain and improve memory and cognition.
Nutrient Content of Blueberries:
Blueberries contain a special pigment, anthocyanin, that gives them their “superpower”. Anthocyanin is found in fruits and vegetables with purple, red, and blue pigments. See the Nutrition Facts label below on the nutrient content of blueberries and what they can help protect and how they can aid the body in functioning properly:
Food For Thought
Did you know blueberries can boost your natural killer cells? Natural killer cells are a type of lymphocyte that protects against virus-infected cells. They do not need to be exposed to the virus beforehand to attack against the infection, they just naturally do it, hence the name. In a study by Appalachian State University, they measured the oxidative stress levels of elite long-distance runners. For six weeks athletes were either eating 250g of blueberries per day or eating their regular diet. Those who ate the blueberries had decreased oxidative stress but, also doubled their natural killer cell count. Oxidative stress from endurance style exercise generally decreases the number of natural killer cells to half. So, if you like to exercise, try adding some blueberries to your diet and give your immune system extra support!
Blueberries are great on their own, but you can add them to many recipes creating delicious food. My favorite way to consume blueberries is in a smoothie. See the recipe below:
1C of mixed berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
1 handful kale or spinach
2 TBSP ground flaxseeds or chia seeds
1 TBSP nut butter
¾-1 C almond milk or milk of choice
3 shakes of cinnamon
1 scoop of vanilla pea protein powder (I use Biotics Research Brand)
Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth. Enjoy!