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It's hard to believe but, not that many years ago, nutrition experts were telling people to save their calories and skip the blueberries because they had no nutritional value.
Fast forward a few decades and blueberries are now widely revered as a superfood. In fact, investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, studying the link between disease and nutrition, believe that eating just one cup of blueberries every day prevents cell damage linked to cancer.
Uniquely American, blueberries are native to North America and are rarely found in Europe. They grow naturally in the woods and mountainous regions of the United States and Canada.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants and flavonoids that help prevent cell damage. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, atoms that contain an odd number of electrons and are highly unstable. Free radicals can cause the type of cellular damage that is a big factor in cancer development.
Blueberries are rich in one particular type of flavonoid called anthocyanins. These compounds are water soluble pigments that are red, violet or blue depending on their pH level. Apples and blueberries both get their beautiful colors from anthocyanins.
In plants, anthocyanins act as antioxidants and protect the plant from oxidative damage. In cells, they perform a similar function.
According to Laura Newton M.A.Ed., R.D., an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Sciences at the UAB and a licensed dietician who often works with cancer patients, many studies suggest that antioxidants like anthocyanins may help prevent the free-radical damage associated with cancer.
But blueberries do even more. They are also rich in vitamin C, which supports the immune system and can help the body to absorb iron. An important consideration for cancer patients is that "vitamin C also helps to keep blood vessels firm, offering protection from bruising," Newton says.
Blueberries have such a reputation for health and healing that food companies are adding blueberries to lots of packaged products as an advertising hook. But don't be fooled by products with fake blueberries.
As with any fruit, blueberry juice and other processed products may contain some nutritional value but are often missing the soluble and insoluble fiber that blueberries provide. They may also have added sugars or high fructose corn syrup, which actually feeds cancer and defeats the health benefits of the fruit.
Fresh, raw blueberries provide the most health benefits. An average serving size of raw blueberries is one cup and contains about 80 calories.
For additional research on the health benefits of this remarkable berry explore the GreenMedInfo blueberry research page on the topic which covers 60 potential disease applicationsl, including triple negative breast cancer: