Blueberries 101: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Recipes, and More

Medically Reviewed
blueberries benefits how to eat
Blueberries contain fiber, folate, vitamin C, magnesium, and several other essential nutrients.Adam Nixon/Stocksy

Blueberries are one of the tiniest fruits, but don’t let their small size fool you. This summer berry is full of antioxidants and vitamins, and is the perfect choice for a healthy snack. It can also be used in recipes both sweet and savory to add a burst of unexpected flavor. Here’s what you need to know about blueberries, as well as a few recipes you can experiment with this week.

What Are Blueberries, and Where Does the Fruit Come From?

Blueberries are plump, sweet, and juicy, with a color that ranges from indigo to deep purple. Wild blueberries are considered indigenous to North America, where they have existed for more than 13,000 years.

Blueberries are available across the United States today, but they don’t have a long history as a cultivated fruit. As a crop, they date to the dawn of the 20th century, when the daughter of a New Jersey farmer teamed up with a botanist to cultivate and breed blueberries. They harvested the first blueberries in 1916, and over the next 50 years, Americans experienced a “blueberry boom.”

While the cultivated variety of the fruit originated in New Jersey, it’s currently grown across North America, which produces approximately 1 billion pounds of blueberries each year.

Today, blueberries are also cultivated in parts of South America, including Argentina, Chile, and Peru.

Common Questions & Answers

Do blueberries make you gain weight?
No. In fact, because blueberries are low in calories (containing just 84 calories per cup) and offer a good source of fiber, this fruit is an excellent choice for weight management. When eaten in moderation, blueberries are not likely to cause weight gain.
What are the health benefits of blueberries?
Blueberries contain a high amount of antioxidants. The antioxidants in blueberries can fight inflammation, repair cell damage, reduce the risk of some cancers, maintain brain health, and contribute to a healthy heart and glucose levels.
Are blueberries good to eat every day?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat between 1? to 2? cups per day, depending on your age. Blueberries are safe to eat every day. But be sure to speak with your doctor if you take a blood thinner. You should also avoid blueberries if you’re allergic to the chemical salicylate.
When are blueberries in season?
In the United States and Canada, blueberry season peaks in the summer. But it’s possible to buy blueberries year-round from many grocery stores, which often receive imports from South America. Frozen blueberries are also a nutritious and affordable alternative to fresh blueberries.
Can I eat blueberries that are red in color?
Reddish-colored blueberries are edible. Keep in mind that these blueberries are not ripe, so they may have a sour taste. Although these berries aren’t the best choice for eating raw, you can cook with red blueberries without ruining the taste of your dish.

What’s in Blueberries? A Look at the Fruit’s Nutrition Facts

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 148 grams (g) of blueberries — or about 1 cup —?has about 84 calories; 1 cup of blueberries also offers:

  • Total fat, 0.5 g
  • Protein, 1.1 g
  • Carbohydrates, 21.5 g
  • Dietary?fiber, 3.6 g
  • Sugars, 14.7 g
  • Calcium, 8.88 milligrams (mg)
  • Iron, 0.41 mg
  • Vitamin C, 14.4 mg

What Are the Potential Health Benefits of Blueberries?

Blueberries are sweet and succulent, but that’s not the only reason to pick up a bunch on your next grocery run.

Blueberries are an excellent source of the antioxidants called polyphenols, which are substances that help inhibit the oxidative stress and free radicals that cause cell damage. Flavonoids are one type of polyphenol offered by blueberries. Much of the research on the health benefits of blueberries has focused on anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid that’s responsible for blueberries’ distinctive color.

Thanks to these antioxidants, regularly consuming blueberries may boast a number of health benefits, research suggests.

Help Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

One review found that the antioxidants in blueberries may help prevent numerous chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and degenerative diseases. Anthocyanins may be particularly helpful in reducing the risk of high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Help Boost Brain Function

The flavonoids in blueberries may help improve memory and cognitive function. According to a study, older adults who consumed high amounts of flavonoids in a 20-year period were up to 40 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Similarly, a small study on wild blueberry powder found that this form of the fruit may help boost problem-solving and memory in children, resulting in higher test scores.

Play a Role in Lowering Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

Blueberries’ anthocyanin content may help improve insulin sensitivity in people who are obese and have?insulin resistance, thus reducing their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although more research is needed.

Additionally, anthocyanins may contribute to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes by helping to lower inflammation and body weight, two known risk factors for diabetes development.

Help You Maintain Healthy, Strong Bones

Eating blueberries may protect your bones and joints. Blueberries are a source of manganese, which plays a role in healthy bone development. Research suggests that eating blueberries could reduce the risk for low bone density (osteopenia), due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory impacts.

Play a Part in Helping Prevent Some Cancers

The antioxidant effect of blueberries can reduce inflammation throughout your body and may inhibit the growth of some types of cancers — stopping cells from becoming malignant and slowing the growth of cancerous cells. Currently, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) notes that blueberries show some promise in preventing colorectal cancer, thanks to their high fiber content. The AICR adds that blueberries and other nonstarchy fruits and veggies may decrease the risk of aerodigestive cancers (like mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophageal, lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers).

Have the Potential to Improve Your Mood

Some evidence suggests that eating blueberries may help relieve symptoms of depression. In small studies, researchers found that a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink helped improve mood and potentially decrease the risk of depression in children and young adults.

Plus, one animal study suggests that a blueberry-rich diet may improve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

But more research in humans using whole blueberries is needed to confirm these effects.

Can Blueberries Help With Weight Loss?

Blueberries are a healthy choice when you want to snack on something sweet but don’t want to sabotage your weight-loss efforts. A cup contains only about 84 calories — plus, blueberries are full of fiber.

High-fiber foods leave you feeling fuller for longer than low-fiber foods do, so you’re likely to eat less.

Fiber-rich foods may also lower the risk of overweight and obesity.

And while blueberries alone won’t necessarily cause weight loss, people who have a regularly high anthocyanin intake may have less body fat overall.

How to Select and Store Blueberries for the Freshest Quality

Fresh blueberries can be purchased year-round. For the best flavor, however, it’s important to pick a quality batch.

When grocery shopping, look specifically for blueberries that are firm and dry. A quality blueberry will have smooth skin and a deep color, either a deep purplish blue or blue to black.

Sometimes, you may stumble upon blueberries that are reddish or greenish in color. These blueberries are not ripe and don’t contain as much flavor as ripened?berries.

Carefully examine a batch of blueberries before purchase. Don’t purchase berries that are shriveled, soft, or moldy.

It’s always important to wash your blueberries just before eating, and keep them refrigerated after purchase to ensure freshness. Blueberries last 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator, but if you want to extend their shelf life, you can freeze them or dry them.

You can also buy frozen blueberries, which come in handy if you’re looking to add blueberries to smoothies or yogurt. Feel the bag before purchasing to ensure that the blueberries are loose and not frozen into a lump, which can be difficult to separate when preparing frozen drinks like smoothies. If you choose to thaw a bag of frozen blueberries, store it in the refrigerator or open the contents and rinse the berries under cool water until defrosted.

Dried blueberries are widely available in grocery stores and a great addition to trail mix, salads, baked goods, cereals, and more. They have a similar antioxidant content to fresh blueberries, but tend to be higher in sugar and calories by weight (since the drying process removes water and volume from the fruit).

What’s the Best Way to Eat Blueberries? Here’s Some Recipe Inspiration

Blueberries can add variety to many dishes and desserts. Eat blueberries raw or toss a few in fat-free or low-fat yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal.

Blueberries are also perfect for smoothies or shakes. Combine the fruit in a blender with other fruits, such as bananas, kiwis, strawberries, or?pineapple. Or prepare a baked dish with blueberries, such as cakes, muffins, or pancakes.

Here’s a look at a few simple blueberry recipes for more inspiration:

Other Uses for Blueberries: How to Use the Fruit in Your Beauty Routine

Blueberries don’t only benefit the inside of your body. They can also benefit the outside. Because this powerful antioxidant fruit contains vitamins C and E, it can be used for skin care. Vitamin C may possibly help minimize fine lines and wrinkles, increase skin moisture, and offer some protection against UV rays.

Vitamin E may also help protect against UV rays and can promote wound healing and reduce inflammation.

Collectively, these functions could help increase skin elasticity, balance moisture levels, decrease blemishes, and even out your skin tone.
Several skin-care products on the market contain blueberry extract, such as Paula’s Choice Oil-Free Moisturizer with Vitamin B3 and Blueberry ($29.00, paulaschoice.com) or Innisfree Rebalancing Cleanser with Blueberry ($7, us.innisfree.com). But you can easily make your own blueberry facial mask with simple ingredients. Try blending ? cup of blueberries with 1 tablespoon each of organic honey and olive oil. Apply the mask to your face and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Remove with warm water.

Are There Any Health Risks Involved With Eating Blueberries?

Given the healthy nature of blueberries, it might be hard to imagine this fruit posing any health risks. But blueberries aren’t the right choice for everyone.

You should talk to your doctor if you take blood-thinning medication. Blueberries contain vitamin K, which promotes blood clotting. Eating too many all at once may reduce the effectiveness of these medications.

Also, avoid blueberries if you’re allergic to salicylate, a chemical that is found in the berries.

Up to 70 percent of people with pollen allergies also have oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which is caused by a cross-reaction between pollen and certain nuts, vegetables, and fruits (including blueberries). Raw blueberries can trigger OAS, which can cause symptoms such as itching, burning, and tingling around your mouth. If you experience negative reactions after eating blueberries, consider seeing your allergist or immunologist for testing.

A Final Word on Eating Blueberries and Reaping Their Possible Health Benefits

Whether you’re buying fresh or frozen, blueberries are a perfect snack to eat on their own, and a healthy addition to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal. Thanks to their sweetness and juiciness, this small fruit packs a huge punch and can enhance the flavor of just about anything.

Additional reporting by Kristeen Cherney.

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