It's about time: The humble blueberry has never really earned proper praise.
Recently, though, researchers and nutritionists alike have been supporting the small blue fruit, informing health-conscious eaters everywhere that this average-looking berry packs a laundry list of health benefits (including weight loss) that's anything but. We asked Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN to explain the recent blueberry buzz and discuss why, exactly, the blueberry is poised to become the next kale-level trend. Here, some of the top reasons to stock your kitchen with plenty of them, fresh or frozen:
They're Good for the Heart
Blueberries fight the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome, according to an early study performed on lab rats at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center. After a 90-day trial, the rat fed a blueberry-enriched powder making up 2 percent of their diet had lower triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as better insulin sensitivity. (For a 1300-calorie diet, that's a mere 1/2 cup a day of the berries.) This is due, Moskovitz details, to the high phytonutrient and flavonoid content. "These are called anthocyanins, which help protect against degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer," she explains. Another study conducted at Harvard Medical School found that young women who had at least 1 1/2 cups blueberries per week were 34 percent less likely to have a heart attack. Those are powerful stats for such a petite berry!
Get the Benefits: Enjoy a Zero Belly-approved smoothie to jumpstart your day. Use your favorite combination of fresh or frozen fruit that includes blueberries, add unsweetened almond milk, and some spinach if you're feeling uber healthy.
Blueberries can help you burn that stubborn belly fat by turning on your get-lean genes.
They Blast Belly Fat
Trade in that tire around your middle for a thinner model–by eating blueberries. The same researchers at University of Michigan found that blueberries can help you burn that stubborn belly fat by turning on your get-lean genes. After a 90-day trial, the rats fed a blueberry-enriched diet showed significantly reduced abdominal belly fat than the control group. Bonus: A low-fat diet boosted the health benefits of the berry consumption. Rats fed a diet meeting these two criteria had lower overall fat mass and liver mass than the control group.
Get the Benefits: For a sweet treat at the end of the night, nibble on frozen blueberries. The cold transforms the berried into a sorbet-like texture that will quell your craving for that Ben & Jerry's!
They Boost Your Brainpower
Blueberries not only help increase your physical health, but also up your mental acuity. "Blueberries have long been considered a superfood with the ability to slow the rate of age-related cognitive decline," raves Moskovitz. A long-term study published in Annals of Neurology highlights that eating blueberries can lower the overall rate of cognitive decline by as much as 2.5 years in adults over the age of 70, as tested with six different cognitive tests.
Get the Benefits: Give your morning oats a little TLC and you'll get plenty of benefits in return. "Top warm oatmeal with frozen berries and cinnamon powder to add a hint of natural sweetness," recommends Moskovitz. "Frozen fruits keep longer and may even be more nutritious than fresh." Just make sure to check the ingredients list to be sure you're not grabbing a bag with added sugar.
They Keep Your Blood from Boiling
Another awesome perk from consuming the little blue fruit is lowered blood pressure, Moskovitz explains. "Results from a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics found that regular daily consumption of blueberries is linked to hypertension prevention and lowered high blood pressure." Increased blueberry consumption was also found to lower arterial stiffness, which may be due to an increase in nitric oxide production.
Get the Benefits: Up the sweetness of your lunchtime routine, advises Moskovitz. "Add fresh berries to your veggie-based salad to balance the flavors and make your lunch a bit more exciting!"
They Banish the 3 Pm Slump
Blueberries, with their low-sugar/high-fiber content, are a great midday snack that can keep your energy humming through even the longest workday. "Compared to many other sweet-tasting fruits like mangoes and bananas, blueberries come out on top," according to Moskovitz. "Both properties help keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent energy from dipping," she adds. With more energy, you're more likely to workout harder and be more alert, helping you achieve your athletic–and aesthetic–goals.
Get the Benefits: "Blend blueberries with unsweetened almond milk and flaxseed for a healthy, energizing smoothie to get you going in the morning," suggests Moskovitz. "The combination of fiber-rich berries, calcium and vitamin D from the milk, and anti-inflammatory fats in flaxseed will keep your energy and blood sugar levels even keel until it's time for your next meal."
They Stop Snacking
If sugar is your enemy in the battle of the bulge, fiber is your key ally, and the blueberry your weapon of choice. Another benefit of blueberries' mega-fiber is managing your hunger levels with ease. "The high fiber content of this tasty, blue fruit also promotes satiety, as our bodies cannot digest it," Moskovitz details. "As a result, it stays in our stomachs longer, expands once it absorbs water and gives you that 'I'm full' feeling for longer." So, if you need a little extra boost of willpower to get you through the day without resorting to the vending machine, blueberries are the perfect snack.
Get the Benefits: For an ideal, low-sugar trail mix, Moskovitz suggests mixing freeze-dried blueberries with raw nuts and bran cereal. Almonds and walnuts both make healthy additions that will ward off the 3 pm slump. Just make sure to read labels carefully, she cautions. Dried fruit is often packed with added sugars, clocking in at 13 grams of the sweet stuff in a diminutive 2 tablespoons. Freeze-dried varieties usually boast better nutrition, making them the safer option.