July is National Blueberry Month, and New Jersey is a great place to celebrate. You can find fresh, Jersey-grown blueberries at your local farmer’s market, or even in supermarkets during the summer. Blueberries are not only sweet and delicious, they are incredibly good for the body. To celebrate National Blueberry Month, let’s look at five reasons why blueberries are one of the healthiest foods.
Boost immune system
Research has shown that blueberries can boost our number of natural killer (NK) cells, which are part of the body’s first line of defense against pathogens.
One study examined long-distance runners, because long-distance running is known to temporarily reduce the body’s number of NK cells. The researchers found that the runners who ate blueberries every day for six weeks did not lose nearly as many NK cells after exercising, compared to the runners who did not eat blueberries.
NK cells are not just important for fighting off viruses; they also kill cancer cells. Blueberries are a powerful anti-cancer food. Not only do they enhance our body’s natural defense against cancer, blueberries also contain compounds that can stop cancer cells from multiplying.
Multiple studies have supported the theory that blueberries can stop the proliferation of cancer cells. This is likely because the active compounds (known as phytochemicals) in blueberries reduce the number of free radicals in our bodies and reduce inflammation. They may even influence our gene expression.
A 2010 study found that older adults who drank wild blueberry juice every day performed better on memory tests than older adults who drank a placebo drink.
Blueberries probably improve memory function the same way they prevent cancer. The phytochemicals in blueberries prevent anti-oxidants from damaging the neurons, thereby preserving memory function.
Lower blood pressure
We already know that eating more fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, but blueberries may have a unique ability to bring down blood pressure on their own. This study done on postmenopausal women with hypertension found that those who ate blueberries every day for 8 weeks experienced a drop in blood pressure, while those in the control group experienced no change.
Blueberries may lower pressure because they stimulate the body’s production of nitric oxide, a compound which widens the blood vessels.
Improve digestive health
Surely, you’ve heard of probiotics—bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt that improve gut health. But have you heard of prebiotics? Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in your intestines. Prebiotics contain compounds that the healthy bacteria in your gut like to eat.
Studies have confirmed that blueberries are a prebiotic. Eating blueberries regularly can increase your number of healthy gut bacteria and improve digestion.
The reasons to get excited about blueberries are seemingly endless. They’re fresh, local, sweet, and super good for your body. If you want to pick your own blueberries, check out the pick-your-own farm nearest to you.
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