Blueberries are often called a “superfood,” but do you know why? These tiny blue berries are crammed with nutrients, and they seem to strike the perfect balance between luscious sweetness and low calories. And while they seem simple, blueberries are actually more complicated than you think.
Blueberries actually fall into two different categories, both of which you can find clustered on bushes throughout the United States. In fact, blueberries are one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the country, being grown at a commercial level in 38 of the 50 states.
- Highbush blueberries – grown commercially across the country, highbush blueberries feature tall shrubs that can reach up to 6 to 8 feet. Highbush varietals produce copious large berries, but their flavor is less sweet and intense than the tastes found on lowbush varietals.
- Lowbush (or “wild”) blueberries – native to Maine and colder climes in Northeast America, lowbush blueberries grow on smaller shrubs and produce small, extra-sweet blue-black berries that are packed with nutrients, including a higher average antioxidant count than highbush varieties.
1. Packed With Nutrients
Despite their size, blueberries pack a nutrient punch that rivals nearly every other food on the planet. A single serving of blueberries (about 1 cup, or 148 grams) contains:
- 4 grams of fiber
- 24% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin C
- 36% of the RDI for Vitamin K
- 25% of the RDI for Manganese
Blueberries are also about 85% water, meaning they help (indirectly) to hydrate. Even better, an entire cup of blueberries (one average serving) only contains about 84 calories, so it can be fit easily into any calorie-counting diet regimen. Paired with 15 grams of carbohydrates, the humble blueberry goes long on nutrients and short on drawbacks.
2. An Antioxidant Blast
What is an antioxidant? It’s a key nutrient that protects your cells from free radicals, unstable molecules that may play a role in aging and deadly diseases like cancer. Thankfully, blueberries likely contain the highest antioxidant levels you can find in a fruit or vegetable. Scientific studies have even shown that blueberries directly increase the amount of antioxidant compounds – flavonoids – inside your body.
3. Flavonoid Punch
A type of flavonoid called anthocyanin gives blueberries much of their health-boosting power. It’s also what brings blueberries their deep color.
To produce their beneficial effects, flavonoids like anthocyanin bind to free radicals, destructive molecules that damage the DNA in our cells. As our cells age, oxidative DNA damage contributes to aging and other diseases, including cancer. Anthocyanin helps to mitigate this natural process, by binding to free radicals and “calming them down.”
4. Protecting Healthy Bones
Blueberries contain high levels of manganese and vitamin K, along with smaller amounts of phosphorous, iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium, all of which contribute to the maintenance of healthy bones.