By Pip Hansen — If you live in Maine, it’s almost compulsory to spend your summer months eating copious amounts of wild blueberries. In fact, given their versatility and freezabilty, you could make it enjoying these little sweetness bombs a year-round activity: blueberry jam, blueberry pie, in a salad, on a smoothie, or as a glaze on pork or salmon.
There’s the highbush blueberry (latin name Vaccinium Corymbosum) with bigger berries and a more mid flavor, and the lowbush blueberry (aka wild blueberry, latin name Vaccinium angustifolium) a bush which grows flatter and wider, but the tiny berries are potently sweet. No matter which you prefer, all of them, every single little blueberry, boasts a ton of health benefits!
Blueberries are an antioxidant superfood – in fact they have the highest antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits, including cranberries, strawberries, plums, and raspberries. Antioxidants are vital in protecting our cells against inflammation, which is believed to be a leading factor in brain aging, Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases of aging. A six-year study in over 16,000 older individuals found that blueberries and strawberries were linked to delays in cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years. The potent antioxidants are found in the blueberry’s namesake skin, which moves from green to purple to deep blue as they ripen.
If you suffer from high blood pressure, think about adding blueberries to your diet. One study showed that just a cup of these blue gems helped lower blood pressure in a group of men in less than 2 hours. The effect was maintained over a month of daily consumption and the overall effect was on par with commonly prescribed blood pressure medication. Other studies have shown similar positive results for different patient populations, including post-menopausal women.
Blueberries can also help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and bolster your immune system. The microbiome of the gut is a growing area of interest for researchers (for more, check out the recording of our Science Café, “Go With Your Gut.”); in particular, how the bacteria in your gut affects your immune system. Blueberries contain flavonoids called anthocyanins which help fight disease, promote good bacteria, and boost overall immunity. Flavonoids also decrease the chance of upper respiratory illness, by up to 33% in this study.
Those points alone make blueberries a dietary must-have – but there’s more! Blueberries also pack in Vitamin C (responsible for keeping your skin healthy by producing collagen and preventing iron deficiency); Vitamin K1 (also known as phylloquinone, which helps to prevent blood clotting); Magnesium (helps our body perform over 300 enzyme reactions, supports our immune system and helps with muscle and nerve function); fiber (helps keep your digestive system moving); and quercetin (another flavonoid that adds color to many fruits and vegetables, found mainly in the skins and leaves of plants, that lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduces brain inflammation.)
Another great way to enjoy blueberries in the summer is in a delicious cocktail! Try the recipe below, which mixes a cult classic, the mojito, with a very special (and healthy!) little berry.
A refreshing classic, with a Maine summer twist.
Servings: 1 cocktail
- 8 blueberries
- 6 to 8 mint leaves
- 3 oz club soda
- 2 oz Bacardi Limón
- 1/2 oz simple syrup
- 1 lime wedge or splash fresh lime juice
- Mint sprig and additional blueberries for garnish
- To make a nonalcoholic version, simply omit the alcohol and top up with soda.