The numerous superfood benefits of blueberries make it a champion protox food. For example, because they contain among the highest levels of polyphenols of any fruit, blueberries provide highly effective antioxidant protection.
But the superfood benefits of blueberries go beyond fighting free radicals in your body. They also fight inflammation, improve vascular function, fight cancer, enhance brain function and stave off obesity and diabetes. Pretty impressive list for such a small fruit.
Most of the research suggests that blueberries pack such a health wallop because of their high content and great variety of a group of polyphenol flavonoids called anthocyanins. In fact, 70% of the polyphenols in blueberries are anthocyanins.
These polyphenols are responsible for the red, purple and blue colors of many flowers, cereal grains, fruits, and vegetables. They are usually found in the skins, and the deeper the color the higher the anthocyanin content.
Anthocyanins make a great battle buddy to protect your health from the daily onslaught of toxic chemical exposure. Because, while choosing nontoxic products can reduce your exposure, it won’t eliminate it.
And constant exposure to toxic chemicals can can overwhelm your bodies ability to deal with these toxins. This can cause a variety of health problems.
The anthocyanins and other polyphenols in blueberries have demonstrated unique abilities to provide protection from health problems linked with toxic chemical exposure.
These include chronic inflammation, liver disease, diabetes, gut problems and cancer. So here are 5 ways the benefits of blueberries will support your body's ability to deal with toxic chemicals.
Your body creates toxins, called free radicals, that can damage and kill cells in your body. And your exposure to toxic chemicals increases the production of free radicals. Your body has an antioxidant defense system to battle free radicals.
That means your body is producing more free radicals than it can deal with. This imbalance, caused by too many free radicals running rampant through your body, creates oxidative stress and inflammation.
The antioxidants in blueberries reduces oxidative stress and inflammation by destroying free radicals. Plus, they interfere with the cascade of chemical reactions called inflammatory pathways. And blueberries pack the best antioxidant punch.
A study of the antioxidant levels in 24 different fruits found that blueberries are at the top of the list. In fact, a 2013 study found that eating just one portion (300 g) of blueberries was enough to improve cell antioxidant defense against DNA damage.
There are 100's of varieties of this superfood. And while they all contain high antioxidant levels, Wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) and bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus contain higher levels than highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) and other varieties.
Your liver helps fight infections and cleans your blood. It also helps digest food and stores energy for when you need it. And it has the extremely important job of breaking down toxic chemicals into forms that can be eliminated from your body in urine, feces and sweat.
Because blood from the stomach and intestines flows through
the liver before entering the rest of your body it is the first organ to
encounter ingested nutrients, vitamins, metals, drugs, and toxic chemicals. Many of the toxic chemicals your liver deals with leave a lasting impression.
In other words, your liver is the first line of defense against toxic chemicals. But, that also means it’s the target organ most often affected by toxic chemicals.
In fact, all the major functions of the liver can be damaged by acute or chronic exposure to toxic chemicals. This exposure causes a build-up of fat in liver cells that can lead to inflammation of the liver.
A fatty inflamed liver can lead to liver scarring (fibrosis) and then cirrhosis. This is where hard scar tissue replaces soft healthy tissue. Cancer can develop in the liver at any stage in the progression of liver disease.
The anthocyanins in blueberries have been studied for their role in affecting fat metabolism and deposition in different body tissues, including your liver. They’ve been found to reduce fat accumulation in your liver and fight oxidative stress and liver inflammation. This may prevent the progression of liver disease to fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Keeping your liver slim and preventing inflammation is an amazing superfood benefit of blueberries. After all, you need a healthy liver to effectively deal with the toxic chemicals you're exposed to daily.
Your frequent exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like BPA, numerous types of phthalates and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can cause insulin resistance and diabetes. EDCs are chemicals that mess with your endocrine system, a group of glands in your body that secrete hormones.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which is part of the endocrine system. This hormone decreases blood sugar levels by helping your cells take in and use glucose and by preventing the breakdown of glycogen into glucose. And it's a prime target for EDCs.
EDCs can disrupt insulin secretion and how your body responds to insulin (insulin resistance). This sets up a pathway of disfunction that can lead to diabetes. Adding blueberries to your diet can help with this.
Because, according to growing scientific evidence, blueberries have anti-diabetic health benefits. Both animal and human studies have found that eating blueberries improves insulin resistance and glucose tolerance.
For example, a 2016 US study reported that eating blueberry powder (669 mg/day) for 6 weeks improved insulin sensitivity in the 32 people in the study. The results of The Nurse’s Health Study I and II and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study showed that a lower risk of diabetes was associated with higher anthocyanin content in the diet. And for many years, increased consumption of blueberries has been a folk remedy in Canada for treating Type 2 diabetes.
Your gut health is now recognized as a key part of your overall health. That's because it plays a major role in the production of vitamins, enzymes, and other compounds that digest and metabolize food and regulate your immune system.
And it also helps your body detoxify toxins. While the breakdown of toxins in your body mainly happens in your liver, the microorganisms that live in your gut also metabolize some toxins into forms that your body can excrete.
It’s role in breaking down toxins is crucial because your gut can breakdown many compounds in ways that the rest of your detox system can’t. The foundation of all these important functions are the trillions of microorganisms that live in your esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, called the microbiome.
Researchers are beginning to discover that exposure to some ingested toxins, like arsenic, changes your microbiome. Besides arsenic, heavy metals like mercury, pesticides, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and antimicrobial chemicals can and do mess with your gut health.
Think about how many of the chemicals that you’re exposed to are antibacterial in their action. For example, parabens, sulfites, nitrites, nitrates, and many phenols are preservative agents that are present in foods, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. They are designed to kill microbes.
Although studies of the impact of toxic chemical exposure on your gut microbiome are limited, the information available indicates that they can change the types, number and function of your microbiome. Your gut can also become inflamed from eating food and drinking water that contains toxic chemicals.
Protecting your gut health is another superfood benefit of blueberries, again because of their high concentration of anthocyanins. One way they contribute to gut health is by increasing beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacteria.
They also scavenge free radicals, disrupt inflammatory pathways and activate your body’s antioxidant system to reduce inflammation in your gut.
Studies have found that wild lowbush blueberries are the best kind to eat to restore gut health.
More than 400 substances have been identified as carcinogenic, probably carcinogenic, or possibly carcinogenic to humans. You’re exposed to carcinogens from the products you use, the food you eat, the water you drink and the indoor and outdoor air you breath.
Exposure to toxic chemicals causes inflammation and increases free radical production, causing oxidative stress. (an imbalance between free radical production and your body’s ability to remove them).
And there’s a lot of scientific evidence that oxidative stress can damage DNA. This can trigger the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer. The superfood benefits of blueberries include anti-cancer protection.
The high level of antioxidants found in blueberries can delay, inhibit, or prevent the oxidative damage by scavenging free radicals and decreasing oxidative stress. And it’s not just flavonoids like anthocyanins that provide antioxidant protection.
Nonflavonoid compounds in blueberries, called stilbenes, have remarkable potential to prevent and treat diseases like cancer. They are antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and can cause cell death in cancer cells.
One type of stilbene in blueberries you might have heard of is Resveratrol. Also found in grapes, it’s what gives red wine its health benefits.
Resveratrol affects the initiation, promotion and progression of cancer. It’s anticancer properties come from its ability to impact cancer cell division, growth and death, inflammation and metastasis.
Adding the benefits of blueberries to your diet is easy. Who doesn’t love blueberries.
But, to get the most benefit from blueberries always choose organic berries. That way you can avoid exposure to 52 different pesticide residues that have been found on blueberries, including 22 hormone disruptors and 8 carcinogens. I don’t care how good and plump and juicy non-organic berries of any kind look, I won’t eat them.
Also, studies have found that baking, boiling and especially microwaving blueberries, can reduce the amount of anthocyanins from 23% - 43%. And the amounts of other polyphenols are reduced by 26% - 33%.
So, eat them fresh when they’re in season. And If you can find them, try wild lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium). Studies have found that they provide the most anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
I used to live on the edge of a state forest that was full of wild lowbush blueberries that I could harvest. If you’re lucky enough to live near an area where they grow wild, you can harvest them yourself.
When blueberries aren’t in season try frozen, dried or powdered. Bilberry powder is a really good alternative. The less commonly known Bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) are closely related to blueberries. Add powder or dried berries to drinks, smoothies and cereals.
To preserve its freshness and not waste any I make blueberry juice ice cubes. Then I just add one or two cubes to my water every day.
Making blueberries a regular part of your diet is an easy and yummy way to protect you from the health effects of toxic chemical exposure. It's antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and anti-cancer benefits make it a superior superfood.