To your good health: why blueberries are irritatingly good for you

Blueberries – we’ve all heard about how they’re a wonderful superfood, that they are a good source of antioxidants, and that they are delicious. They can be helpful for blood sugar regulation, help to prevent oxidative damage in different parts of the body, and have been touted as a healthful food for many years.

But, how does this actually work? Do little blueberry constituents get absorbed into our bloodstream and then gallivant around our bodies, rushing in to save the day by decreasing oxidation and inflammation? Turns out, this is not the case.

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The main active constituent in blueberries is a group of molecules called proanthocyanidins – these are the ones that get all the credit for this antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. These molecules are actually slightly toxic to humans! It’s a little weird that something slightly toxic would be considered a superfood, right?

Here is what happens: we eat the blueberries, and we digestively absorb the active constituents into our bloodstream for a period of 15-20 minutes. This short time period is enough for our bodies to up-regulate its own anti-inflammatory and antioxidant pathways to counteract the slight toxicity of the blueberries. So, it may seem that the blueberries themselves are helping you be a little more healthy every time you eat them, but it’s actually your own body doing the important work!

See below for a delicious and simple blueberry recipe:

Blueberry-Cucumber-Mint Salad
In a salad bowl, combine:
2 medium cucumbers, sliced lengthwise and cut into ¼ inch slices
1½ cups fresh blueberries
4 scallions, sliced thinly
¾ cup crumbled feta (optional)

You will also need: Generous handful mint, chopped (reserve for later)

In a small bowl, combine:
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

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Pour the dressing onto the salad. Finish the salad by adding freshly chopped mint. Enjoy!

Son TG, Camandola S, Mattson M. Hormetic Dietary Phytochemicals. NeuroMolecular Medicine. 2016;10(236).

Avatar photo Dr. Lorraine & Dr. Katy (30 Posts)

Drs. Katy and Lorraine have been colleagues and close friends since 2013. More recently, they collaborated on a series of blog posts to get the word out about the most powerful ways to get and stay healthy. Dr. Katy practices in mid-coast Maine and Dr. Lorraine practices in eastern Oregon.

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