Blueberries are one of the sweetest low-calorie fruits you can eat.
Not only that, their benefits and nutritional values are unarguable.
Those benefits put blueberries amongst the world’s healthiest and even the most nutrient dense berries.
There are just 39 calories in about half a cup (about 50 blueberries), which boils down to a mere 0.8 calorie in one blueberry.
That’s less than 1 calorie per one bit of delicious goodness.
For the entire pint of blueberries as purchased, there are roughly 229 calories (1).
If you are looking for anything tasty that is low-calorie and low-fat, blueberries are it.
- 1 blueberry = 0.8 calories
- 50 blueberry = 39 calories
- 100 grams = 57 calories
- 1 cup = 85 calories
- 1 pint = 229 calories
Their relatively low-calorie content makes blueberries a natural complement to any weight management and weight loss plan, satisfying sweet cravings without breaking your daily calorie allowance.
But the true gem of these blue hued berries is not in the void of calories or fat, but it’s in the richness of nutrients.
Being low-calorie helps, certainly.
But blueberries do more good in your body than being absent of things you worry about, like calories.
In the nutrition scene, they are called superfood or super fruit to signify their awesome nutritional qualities and health benefits they collectively offer.
So what is really in a blueberry? and what type of food is blueberry?
Well, to start off, blueberries are categorized as a carbohydrate fruit with about 1% of fat and protein.
Carbs in Blueberries
But blueberries are also low in carbohydrates—mainly because it contains mostly water, about 85% (2).
21 grams of carbs is what you can find in 100 grams of blueberries.
And just like strawberries, the carbs in blueberries come from sugar—simple sugar, in the form of glucose, fructose, and sucrose.
I know this just raised a red flag on your nutrition and weight loss book, but let’s not jump to a conclusion too fast.
Instead, let’s dig a level deeper.
Because here is the thing with blueberries…
In addition to sugar, blueberries provide other beneficial nutrients.
And if that doesn’t signal anything to you, it should.
Blueberries contain a decent amount of fibers, about 4 grams or 14% of daily-recommended intake.
Believe it or not, this presence of fiber is a large factor in blood sugar management, preventing spikes in your blood sugar after eating berries, which is essential to diabetic patients and those looking to lose weight.
This is because the presence of other nutrients like fibers limits the impact sugar makes in your body. It does not cancel out the sugar, per se, but it minimizes the effect (3).
So if you have a choice of eating the same amount of sugar from other sources, you are much better off taking that from blueberries.
Sugar in Blueberries
Compared to other popular fruits, blueberries’ sugar content is in fact moderate. It’s not mere, for sure.
In one cup of blueberries, there are 15 grams of sugar. That’s equivalent to about 4 teaspoons of sugar.
Their berry counterpart, strawberries contain just about half of that, 8 grams, which is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar (4).
Here are some round ups of sugars in other fruits.
- Strawberries —7g
- Papaya —8g
- Watermelon —10g
- Peaches —13g
- Nectarines —11g
It’s true. Blueberry’s sugar content is higher than others.
But, again, sugar in blueberries still poses a minimum threat to your health as other nutrients help lower the impact of sugar, especially in the realm of blood sugar control.
This brings to another metric important for managing your blood sugar levels.
Blueberries Glycemic Index (GI) Score
Blueberries have a glycemic index (GI) score of 53 out of 100 (5).
In glycemic index, anything below 55 is considered low, between 55 and 69 is medium, and above 70 is high and very high.
Blueberries still fall under the low category, yet their score is not relatively low and higher than other such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries whose GI scores are in mid-30s.
What scores of glycemic index suggest is the likelihood of how one food impacts your blood glucose-or blood sugar (6).
Higher the score is, more likely that it negatively impacts your blood sugar levels after eating.
In natural, this may hold you back on blueberries in fear of raising your blood sugar, but a resent study quoted on the World’s Healthier Foods, has found that berries including blueberries have a positive effect on blood sugar regulations in patients diagnosed of type 2 diabetes (7).
Not only that, they saw a significant improvement in their blood sugar level over 3 short months.
It was a clear statement to how beneficial blueberries and other berries are to your blood sugar management.
This healthful nature can also be attributed to other nutrients in blueberries.
Let’s take a look at the overview of blueberry’s nutrition.
According to nutritiondata.com, in one serving of blueberries (1 cup or 148 grams) contains (8):
- 84 Calories
- 4 g Fiber — 14% RDV
- 21 g Carbohydrates — 7% RDV
- 15 g Sugar
- Vitamin C — 24% RDV
- Vitamin K — 36% RDV
- Vitamin E — 4% RDV
- Vitamin B6 — 4% RDV
- Thiamin — 4% RDV
- Riboflavin — 4% RDV
- Copper — 4% RDV
- Manganese — 25% RDV
- Zero fat
- Zero cholesterol
These important nutrients and vitamins found in blueberries is what make them so nutritious and healthy for you.
In case you missed it above, blueberries are a rich source of this fat-soluble vitamin.
Just one cup provides a whopping 35% of your RDV of vitamin K.
Vitamin K is one of the essential vitamins for healthy bones and heart health, and it also plays a vital role in other bodily process.
According to Dr. Mercola, vitamin K is an important adjunct to vitamin D, and if you are deficient in one, neither will perform at their best in your body.
With abundance in nutrients, blueberries surely bring unique and amazing health benefits you most certainly appreciate.
While few are a common knowledge, many are still relatively unknown.
So let’s dig in and take a look at amazing and some obscure health benefits of blueberries.
Blueberries—Very High in Antioxidants
Blueberries is the leader of the pack when it comes to antioxidants.
The USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) tested out 40 different fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants activity and made a profound finding.
Blueberries contain the highest amount of antioxidants, which granted blueberries the #1 ranking in the antioxidant activity.
Antioxidants are incredibly important to our health, protecting our bodies from damage caused by free radicals and unstable molecules that can damage cellular structures and contributes to degenerative diseases such as aging and cancer (9, 10).
It’s not only that blueberries contain more antioxidants than other produce, but it’s also the type of antioxidants properties found in them that make them truly valuable and more beneficial to your health.
Blueberry’s main antioxidant properties belong to the family of polyphenols, called flavonoids. It’s the pigment that gives blueberries the blue vibrant hues.
It’s also known for being the most potent antioxidants responsible for health benefits.
Time and time again, research has shown that eating blueberries can directly increase the level of antioxidants inside the body.
You can say there is certainly a health benefit in eating more blueberries.
Next time you grab a pack, don’t be shy. Grab a pint or two. You’ll thank yourself later.
Prevent Brain Aging and Memory Impairment
If taking in more of those valuable antioxidants is very healthful, then it’s only natural not having enough of them can also lead to a weakening of your bodily functions.
One that strikes to me the most is the negative effects oxidative stress have on brain aging, memory impairment, and brain functions (11).
And according Birla College’s study, you get to the state of oxidative stress when free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them (12).
This leads to a number of human diseases, including brain related.
There’s strong evidence showing positive signs in the antioxidants found in blueberries can help offset and neutralize some of the free radicals that can cause oxidative stress and damage to brain cells.
One study in particular shows very promising results (13).
In their 6-year study, they examined more than 16,000 participants to determine whether a higher intake of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older women.
Results—they discovered greater intake of blueberries and strawberries were associated with slower rate of cognitive decline, up 2.5 years.
This is huge finding considering, since more than 20% of the U.S population will be over the age of 65 by 2050 (14).
Your action plan: Include more berries into your diet—particularly blueberries to take advantage of more antioxidants benefits, and boost your brain power.
Boost your Heart Health
Blueberries along with other berries are amongst the top foods for your heart health next to fish high in omega-3s such as salmon, mackerel and trout, and healthy nuts rich in healthy fats such almonds and walnuts.
Phytonutrients found in berries are long being shown to strengthen ones’ heart and reduce heart related problems.
Scientists from the University of East Anglia in the U.K, and Harvard School of Public Health in the U.S analyzed 93,600 women between the age of 25 to 42 who ate at least 3 servings of blueberries and strawberries per week and made a profound finding.
As a result of the berry consumption, those women saw 32 percent reduction in their risk of heart attacks (15).
Dr. Eric Rimm, lead researcher of the study explained what’s in those berries makes them so good for your heart.
"Blueberries are very high in a specific antioxidant sub-class of flavonoids called anthocyanins. They help dilate arteries, counter buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits.", said Dr. Rimm.
This specific class of antioxidants called anthocyanins makes up the fruit’s protection from the outside. It also gives a fruit its vibrant color.
Studies prove that anthocyanins reduce blood pressure and work as anti-inflammatory inside the arteries (16).
They also help protect the arterial wall, so we develop less plaque, which helps protect your heart from damage.
Takeaway: Blueberries are proven to be one of the best heart healthy foods—Scientist are suggesting it can be strong weapon in our dietary intake for combating against the world leading causes of death, heart attacks.
And since this can easily be done by eating 2 to 3 serving of this fruit per week, it’s no reason not to pack few berries into your snack bag everyday.
Helps with Fat Burn
If you’re looking for healthy foods that burn fat and help you lose weight, blueberries is a great food to include in your meal planning.
A study from the Texas Women’s University in Denton shows blueberries not only help you lose weight but trim or burn excess fat from our bodies (17).
A great finding if you are looking to reduce your body fat.
Researchers of the study credit the high polyphenol content founds in blueberries for this berries’ fat burn effect.
They state "Polyphenol supports critically important functions in our bodies that increases fat burn."
Though the test was done solely on mice, there are certainly remarkable results to show for and learn from.
The lead researcher Shiwani Moghe, MS presented that mice who had the most blueberries had a 73% decrease in fat lipids and mice on a lower dose had a 27% percent decrease.
The result from the research was originally presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting for the American Society for Nutrition.
Another study by the University of Michigan found similar test results. In their 90-day study, rat with 2% of diet being blueberry-enriched powder had less abdominal fat, less low triglycerides, and lower cholesterol after the trial (18).
On top of that, they saw an improvement in fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity, two important measures of how well the body uses glucose for energy.
Best Types of Blueberries
Image source: cooksinfo.com
Only known amongst the few, but blueberries have a few different types.
Two of the most common types of blueberries are:
- Highbush blueberries
- Lowbush blueberries
Highbush are the most commonly grown blueberries in the US.
Lowbush are often referred to as "wild blueberries", and they are said to be the best type.
Because they're typically smaller in size and richer in nutrients and 48 percent higher in antioxidants, according to Dr. Mercola (19).
Though low-bush blueberries can be a bit higher in the price scale.
Blueberry Buying Guide
I know there’s a huge debate on whether to buy organic or not.
Most of the time is a debate over its nutritional value versus the hefty price tag that comes with the "organic" label.
I’m certain there are valid arguable cases that warrant shoppers’ doubts, but that’s not the case with blueberries, or fruits in entirely.
When it comes to fruits, especially those with eatable skin, numerous studies show that organically grown is definitely worth the higher price. In fact, it’s worth every penny of it.
Here is why...
Berries are coated with a thin skin; this means the fruit soaks up a wide array of pesticides sprayed on the conventional variety. According to a source, there are up to 52 different pesticide chemicals, to be exact (20).
Buying organic cuts out these chemicals, which minimizes their potential harm. That’s one benefit.
Another is a larger dose of antioxidants with organic berries.
Researchers from USDA’s Genetic Improvement of Fruit and Vegetable Laboratory and Rutgers University found that blueberries grown organically had 50% more anthocyanins and 67% more phenolics than the conventionally grown berries (21).
Buying Blueberries on a Budget
Despite those additional benefits, high costs of organic berries are hard to swallow for many, including but not limited to college students living on a budget.
But there are a few ways you can still snap a deal on organic berries.
- Buy them in season.—According to Blueberry Council (yes, there is a council for blueberries!), the fruit’s peak season in North America is June to July. As summer season approaches, look out for fresh berries on sale at a local supermarket.
- Buy them at a farmer’s market.—This goes with buying when in season, but there is additional benefit to buying from a local farmer’s market. One, berries are fresher. Two, they are often cheaper, sans the cost of middleman. Also, less carbon foot print buying local.
- Buy frozen.—Many people falsely believe that frozen berries are inferior in nutritional values compared to fresh ones, but they are not necessarily true. According to some studies, you can find the same levels of anthocyanin antioxidants in frozen or dry berries as the fresh variety does.
One 2014 study even claims that freezing blueberries improves their antioxidant availability (22).
If you are freezing or buying frozen berries, they are generally good for 6 months in your freezer, per tip provided by U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Whatever way you store them, Dr. Mercola says that powder-like coating on the berries, known as the "bloom", should stay on until just before you eat them."
Have Fun with Blueberries
Just like other foods, eating berries by themselves can get boring at times.
But the good news is, sweet and juicy blueberries go with variety of other foods and compliment many dishes and healthy desserts.
If you are out of ideas, here are some of my favorite blueberry recipes, to help make these super fruits much more enjoyable.
- Paleo friendly blueberry muffin recipe from Delicious Meets Healthy.
- Gluten free blueberry pie recipe from Gluten Free Baking
- Greek yogurt parfait with fresh wild blueberries
- Oatmeal with blueberry topping for a heart healthy breakfast
- My all-time favorite blueberry smoothie recipe with dark chocolate and banana.
Or, if you are looking for a healthy summer snack for your toddlers and picky-eaters in your home, make a natural frozen candy by freezing your fresh berries.
Just wash them thoroughly and wipe them dry. Place them in a freezer friendly container in a single layer to prevent sticking together. Freeze them overnight, and serve them cold!
They are a perfect finger food for your little ones, and a healthy sweet tooth satisfaction to those on a weight loss diet.
There you have it!
As you can see, blueberries truly are a superfood. And adding it to your diet can bring tremendous health benefits—mentioned above.
It was certainly alarming for me to learn that the smaller "lowbush blueberries”are richer in nutrients and contain much higher levels of total anthocyanins (antioxidants).
Do you like blueberries? How often do you eat them? Leave me comment below to let me know!