Blueberries are some of the tastiest and healthiest types of fruit that you can find on the market. They are sweet in flavor and incredibly nutritious for you.
Although eaten all over the world, blueberries are native to North America. They contain tons of health-beneficial properties and are easy to eat on the go or add to your favorite dishes and recipes.
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about blueberries.
Did You Know? Blueberries were called star fruits by North American indigenous peoples because of the five-pointed star shape that is formed at the blossom end of the berry.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Types of blueberries
- Nutrition Facts
- Health Benefits
- Ways To Consume
- Potential Risks
- Frequently Asked Questions
History & Facts
Blueberries, also called Vaccinium, belong to the Ericaceae family. The Ericaceae family contains over 4,000 different species (1). Other species from this family include bilberries, cranberries, and huckleberries. Blueberries come from the blueberry bush that produces berries that start green in color and ripen to a blue-purple hue.
They are native to North America and have been present on the land as far back as 13,000 years ago (2). Native Americans were the first to recognize them as not only delicious but having health benefits too. They were used by indigenous people for medicinal purposes and as a natural flavoring.
It wasn’t until the late 1800s to early 1900s that blueberries were identified by Americans as a food that could be cultivated and cropped (3). Today, there are over 14 states in the U.S. that produce blueberries, adding up to over 600 million pounds of blueberries yearly. The United States continues to lead the world in the total volume of blueberry production.
Summary:Blueberries are native to North America, with the United States continuing to be the top leader in blueberry production.
Types of blueberries
Two different major blueberry species are available in the US market.
- Highbush: Also known as cultivated blueberries and can be found in almost all of North America. They contain a similar amount of nutrients as lowbush berries (4). They typically have a bigger berry size and are more abundant than lowbush blueberries.
- Lowbush: Also known as wild blueberries, these are only produced in Eastern Canada and Northeastern US. Lowbush blueberries have a similar nutrient profile as highbush, but studies have shown lowbush may contain more antioxidants than highbush blueberries (5). They are typically sweeter and smaller than highbush blueberries and are very dark blue.
Summary:There are two different species of blueberry available in the US, highbush and lowbush (6). They are both overall very similar to each other but have some differences.
Blueberries are known to be one of the most nutrient-dense of all berry species.
In one cup (around 148 grams) of blueberries, there are the following macronutrients (7):
- Calories: 84 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 1.1 grams (g)
- Fat: 0.5 grams (g)
- Carbohydrates: 21.5 grams (g)
- Fiber: 3.55 grams (g)
As you can see, blueberries are relatively low in calories and high in fiber. In one cup of raw blueberries, there are almost four grams of fiber (8). The majority of Americans do not eat enough fiber in their diets, making blueberries a great choice to help with this problem. Eating a diet rich in fiber can help increase the feeling of fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes, lower cholesterol, and promote gut health (9).
Summary:Blueberries are relatively low in calories and high in fiber, making them a nutrient-dense food.
Vitamins and Minerals
One cup of raw blueberries, they are jam-packed with the following vitamins and minerals (10):
- Calcium: 8.88 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 8.88 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 17.8 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin C: 14.4 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 114 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 8.88 micrograms (mcg)
- Vitamin A: 80 IU
- Beta Carotene: 47.4 micrograms (mcg)
- Lutein + Zeaxanthin: 118 micrograms (mcg)
- Vitamin E: 0.8 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin K: 28.6 micrograms (mcg)
Out of these vitamins and minerals, blueberries are most known for being high in antioxidants. They have even been noted as having the highest level of antioxidants out of all fruits and vegetables.
Summary:Blueberries are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, especially for how small they are. They are most known for being high in antioxidants.
In addition to the tons of nutrients they contain, blueberries are known for being a powerhouse of health benefits.
Did You Know? Blueberries ranked number one in antioxidant health benefits in a comparison with more than 40 fresh fruits and vegetables.
Blueberries are known for being high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are helpful because they help to reduce the number of free radicals in the body and decrease inflammation. Free radicals can cause cell damage and harm DNA and increase inflammatory cell markers in the body. Decreasing overall inflammation may help with decreasing the number of harmful cells in the body being produced called reactive oxygen species (11). This may help treat symptoms of chronic inflammation like body pain, fatigue, weight gain, mental health, and infections.
Blueberries are also a rich source of phytochemicals and nutrients like polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to help improve clinical symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis (12).
Compared to other foods, blueberries are at the top of the list of anti-inflammatory foods for inflammatory medical conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Individuals with these conditions ranked blueberries as one of the top contenders for helping to relieve pain and other associated arthritic symptoms (13).
Summary:High in antioxidants and other nutrients, blueberries may help reduce inflammation and pain for medical conditions like arthritis.
May Promote Heart Health
Blueberries are a big source of anthocyanin, which has been shown to have a positive impact on the heart’s function and overall health. Those who consume foods with anthocyanin have been found to have a decrease in blood pressure and improved blood vessel function, all important factors for heart health (14).
Moreover, blueberries are rich in phytonutrients, flavonoids, and other antioxidants. These compounds have been shown to protect LDL cholesterol levels from increasing, which can cause plaque buildup in cells and increase the risk of heart disease.
Summary:Blueberries contain anthocyanin, which can help improve heart health and decrease the risk of heart disease.
May Reduce the Risk of Chronic Diseases
Blueberries continue to be studied for their effects on decreasing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Several studies have found associations between regular consumption of blueberries and reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, death, and improvement of brain function and weight maintenance (15).
Specifically, one study found that eating around one cup of blueberries significantly improved blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity (16). This effect was similar to persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well (17).
Summary:Research has found that consuming blueberries may reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes and improve brain function and weight status.
Ways To Consume
Blueberries can be such a simple food to add to your diet if you aren’t already regularly eating them. Here are some ideas for adding blueberries to your meals and snacks:
- Eat them raw: The naturally sweet yet tart flavor of raw blueberries makes this the most simple yet great way to eat them. Just make sure to rinse them first!
- Add them to your favorite smoothie: Blueberries are a great staple fruit to add to smoothies, especially for people that don’t prefer their flavor of them. Try adding other frozen fruits, yogurt, and milk into the blender for a simple and satisfying smoothie.
- Add them to a fruit salad: Cut up your favorite fruits into chunks in addition to blueberries and mix them. You can add some fruit juice and chopped-up mint or basil for additional flavors.
- Add to your favorite breakfast treats: toss them into pancakes, waffles, or baked goods like muffins! There’s a reason why blueberry muffins are always a hit in breakfast foods.
- Use them as a topping: Add fresh fruit like blueberries to yogurt or oatmeal. You could also mash them and make a blueberry compote or jam to turn ice cream into a more nutritious dessert.
- Flavor your water: Try adding blueberries by themselves or mixed with other fruit to your water to give it a refreshing and fruity taste.
- Use it as a salad ingredient: Blueberry is a great fruit to add to your favorite salad to give it a savory and sweet flavor profile.
Fun Fact:When Lewis and Clark ventured into the Northwest, they found that Native Americans would smoke their blueberries to preserve them for winter.
In general, there are minimal to no risks or side effects when eating blueberries. For some, however, they may cause issues.
- It May Cause an Allergic Reaction: For most people, blueberries do not cause any reactions. However, for some people, blueberries may cause allergic reactions and develop symptoms like itchy skin, throat, and even shortness of breath (18). If any issues like this occur when eating blueberries, contact a doctor.
- It May Interfere with Certain Medications: For people on certain medications like anticoagulants (such as Warfarin), consult a doctor before consuming blueberries (19). Blueberry juice contains certain enzymes that may interfere with these types of medications, increasing the risk of bleeding.
- It May Cause Digestive Issues: Blueberries contain a higher amount of fiber which can help with bowel movements and keep you regular. However, for some people who have trouble digesting fiber, this can cause upset stomach, gas, bloating, and other digestive issues (20).
Summary:Overall, blueberries are safe to eat and cause minimal risks, but may cause issues for some people with certain medical conditions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the size of the blueberry matter?
Blueberries come in all different sizes, although almost all of them are round. There is not much of a flavor or nutrient difference between different-sized blueberries. Some say that because of the blueberry skin-to-flesh ratio that differs depending on size, smaller blueberries may contain more anthocyanin content than larger ones. As long as you are eating them, regardless of size, that is what counts!
Can I freeze blueberries?
Blueberries are a great fruit to freeze and enjoy throughout the year. The California Blueberry Commission recommends placing blueberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet, without washing them before freezing. Once they are frozen, transfer them to an air-tight plastic bag or freezer container. This will make them last the longest in the freezer. When you are ready to eat them, don’t forget to wash them beforehand.
When are blueberries in season?
You may find blueberries on sale at grocery stores or at farmer’s markets in the spring and summertime. That is because blueberries are typically harvested from April through June in most places. However, you can typically find them all year round at most grocery stores.
Fun Fact:Florida is the first state every year that has ripened blueberries to bring to the market.
Blueberries are a naturally sweet and delicious fruit that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. They are native to North America and the US continues to be the leading producer of them.
These tiny fruits are jam-packed with nutrients and offer a ton of health benefits like helping with inflammation and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Next time you get the chance be sure to give blueberries a shot in a recipe or two if you don’t already.