The Health Benefits of Blueberries and Antioxidant-Rich Foods
Bananas are excellent sources of potassium, and oranges provide vitamin C. However, did you know that eating blueberries brings you so many benefits, even after eating a small amount?
The health benefits of blueberries include:
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- Lowering blood pressure
- Promoting digestive health
- Fighting cancer
Anthocyanin, a flavonoid, gives blueberries most of their health benefits and their color. The plant compounds, flavonoids, contain a powerful antioxidant effect, which plays a critical role in the body.
What do antioxidants do for the body?
First, let's look at how free radicals wreak havoc in the body and cause damage to proteins, cells, and DNA.
Free radicals in your body that carry an electron, and since electrons prefer pairing up, they snatch the partner electron from other molecules – and any cell wall will do.
Snatching an electron can cause a cell to die, and taking one from your DNA may lead to a cancer-causing mutation. Free radicals also generate low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as unhealthy cholesterol, which is bad news when found in the artery wall.
Moving, breathing and how your body converts food into energy is all it takes to produce free radicals. However, they are generated in much higher numbers by an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
So how do you combat free radicals?
The best defense is antioxidants that help disarm and balance free radicals – knocking them out of the game!
"Antioxidant" is a general term that covers compounds that counteract the unstable free radicals. Your body's cells can produce some powerful antioxidants like glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid. Foods you eat also supply other antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, and provide compounds called phytochemicals, which seem to have antioxidant properties.
The antioxidants neutralize the free radicals in your body by giving up some of their electrons, acting as a natural "off" switch for free radicals.
This helps break the chain reaction that may affect other molecules in a cell and other cells in the body. Antioxidants are also involved in the mechanisms that maintain healthy cells and repair DNA.
The health benefits of cherries and other plants are partially due to the various antioxidants they contain.
What foods are high in antioxidants
Scientists utilize different tests to measure the antioxidant content of foods. One such test is the Ferric Reducing Ability of Plasma (FRAP) analysis, which measures the food’s antioxidant content by how well it neutralizes a free radical.
The higher this value, the more antioxidants food contains.
Vegan foods high in antioxidants include:
- Spinach – Are some of the most nutritious greens in the world rich in vitamins A, K and C. They provide a rich antioxidant count of 2.7 mmol per 100 grams with the red varieties offering up to 4.1 mmol.
- Pecans – These nuts are native to South America and are a good source of minerals, healthy fats and 10.6 mmol of antioxidants. However, they are also high in calories, so moderate consumption is advisable.
- Artichokes – They are a good source of minerals, fiber and 4.7 mmol of antioxidants per 100 grams. Boiling artichokes can raise the antioxidant levels by eight times while steaming increases the count by 15 times.
- Blueberries – Since they have the highest number of antioxidants among all common fruits and vegetables, other health benefits of blueberries include reducing DNA damage, protecting cholesterol in your blood and reducing muscle damage after strenuous exercise. Their FRAP analysis count is up to 9.2 mmol of antioxidants per 100 grams.
Fruits that don’t go brown on exposure to the air, such as orange, kiwi and mango, contain high levels of antioxidants. Further, select brightly-colored plant foods like red cabbage, asparagus, avocados and purple sprouting broccoli to optimize your antioxidant intake.
Fun ways to include blueberries to your diet
Now that you know the truly amazing health benefits of blueberries, here are a few simple and fun ways to incorporate them into your diet:
- Just grab a few, rinse them and eat raw
- Blend frozen with bananas and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon
- Top up pancakes or waffles with strawberries and blueberries
- Incorporate them into your healthy fruit salad for a refreshing taste
- Make blueberry jam with a touch of lemon juice
So, there you have it…A wide variety of vegan foods, and lifestyle, provide an easy way to boost your general wellbeing and help you reap the many health benefits of antioxidants. If you want to learn more about the aspects of eating better, and living better, check out our blog page for helpful info!