Blueberries

7 health benefits of blueberries

Often touted as a powerful antioxidant, does the blueberry live up to the health food hype? Expert nutritionist Jo Lewin investigates the dietary benefits of blueberries.

What are blueberries?

The fashionable blueberry (vaccinium myrtillus) was one of the first to be titled a ‘superfood’. There are many different varieties of blueberry growing in different regions of the world. Huckleberries and bilberries are well known members of the blueberry family, native to North America.

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Blueberries grow in clusters on shrubby bushes and can range in size. Some grow in the UK, but the majority we find in the shops will be imported. Cultivated blueberries are common and taste sweeter than those grown in the wild, which are tart. Blueberries are a deep blue-purple colour with a thin translucent skin and tiny seeds.

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and read about the health benefits of cranberry and cranberry juice, raspberries and strawberries. Then, check out some of our delicious blueberry recipes and blueberry pancake recipes.

7 health benefits of blueberries

1. Source of vitamin C

Blueberries (and other berries such as raspberries and blackberries) are an excellent source of vitamin C, which helps protect cells against damage and aids in the absorption of iron.

2. Soluble fibre helps regular blood sugar

They also contain a decent amount of soluble fibre, which slows down the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream and helps to keep the digestive system happy.

3. Rich in phytochemicals with antioxidant properties

Blueberries are thought to contain one of the highest antioxidant levels amongst common fruit and veg. They are extremely rich in naturally occurring plant compounds called phytochemicals such as ellagic acid and anthocyanidins which are responsible for the blue, indigo and red colouring.

Phytochemicals have been extensively researched for their antioxidant action that helps protect the body against a long list of diseases. However, it is important to note that their superfood label is somewhat over the top and all berries, not just blueberries, have similar benefits.

4. Anthocyanidins help prevent heart disease

Research has shown that anthocyanidins are highly active phytonutrients transported in the bloodstream where they act on blood vessels and collagen to reinforce and preserve it. They support blood vessel integrity around the body, not only the collagen in skin. This action has linked anthocyanidins to a reduction in cardiovascular disease (by protecting the vessels around the heart).

5. Low in calories

Blueberries are low in calories, with a 100g serving providing 1.5g fibre. A wide range of colourful fruits and vegetables are encouraged as part of a balanced diet and blueberries are a fantastic choice to include. One portion of blueberries is about a handful.

6. Help maintain eye health

Another popular use of blueberries is related to vision and protecting against age-related macular degeneration. They improve blood and oxygen flow to the eyes and combat free radicals which cause cataract and macular degeneration. Legend suggests that during World War Two, British Air Force aviators ate bilberry jam daily to improve their night vision.

7. Treating gastrointestinal issues and UTIs

Traditional medicine suggests blueberries as a remedy for both diarrhoea and constipation and they may be able to help with urinary tract infections.

Blueberry and orange bircher

How to select and store blueberries

Choose blueberries that look firm and free from moisture, since the presence of moisture will cause them to spoil. Store in the fridge where they will keep, although they are best if consumed within a few days.

UK grown blueberries are in season from June to September. In winter, they will be imported from around the world. A better environmental choice might be to choose frozen berries or freeze at home when in season.

Before freezing, spread the berries out on a baking sheet and place in the freezer until frozen. Once frozen, put them in a plastic bag for storage. Frozen blueberries may lose their texture more than other fresh berries, but the flavour still remains good.

Blueberries are an easy addition to breakfast cereals with a dollop of yogurt and they blend well into a smoothie.

Blueberry recipe suggestions

Apple & blueberry bircher
Chicken & avocado salad with blueberry balsamic dressing
Get up and go breakfast muffins
Instant frozen berry yogurt
Heart helper smoothie

Also check out our collection of blueberry recipes for more inspiration.


This article was last reviewed on 4 July 2018 by Kerry Torrens.

A nutritionist (MBANT) Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

Jo Lewin is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with the Association for Nutrition with a specialism in public health. Follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.

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