The Free Radical Warrior: The Blueberry
The power of the mighty, yet tiny, blueberry comes from its antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants are compounds that protect the body by neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are unstable compounds created naturally but can build up if we are exposed to excess amounts of harmful substances.
Antioxidants are found in abundance in many plants because plants don’t have a fast metabolism like we do. They must survive overnight or longer without any sunshine. Therefore antioxidants protect the plant from free radical damage and oil rancidity as it ages without sunlight. Good news for us because we benefit from them when we consume them as part of our diet.
Here are some of the ways we benefit from consuming antioxidant-rich blueberries:
Anti-AgingThe natural process of aging occurs when cellular breakdown happens faster than rejuvenation. Antioxidants neutralize some of the free radicals that lead to cell damage and therefore aging, thereby slowing the aging process. Blueberries, and strawberries, may also have the potential to provide enough protection that they could slow down natural cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years!
Anti-CancerFree radicals also contribute to DNA damage that is a cause of many types of cancer. Neutralizing free radicals prevents unnecessary damage to cells, thereby reducing your risk of excessive oxidative damage.
Heart HealthAntioxidants also protect LDL-cholesterol from becoming oxidized or damaged. When they are damaged, they can cause damage to blood vessel walls causing heart disease (which is why it’s known as the “bad” cholesterol). Research also supports the blood pressure lowering effects of blueberries. A handful a day keeps the heart pumping away!
Two More Reasons to Grab a Handful
- Blood Sugar Control: Blueberries are among lowest sugar fruits, and they seem to promote improved insulin sensitivity. For those watching their blood sugar levels, blueberries are one of the best choices.
- Muscle Recovery: Blueberries, like almost all produce, are anti-inflammatory. They may promote muscle recovery and reduce soreness.
Blueberries truly are the ultimate free radical warriors, ready to defend your health at any second. Summertime is the peak season for blueberries, so go grab a carton at the local farmers market or grocery store!