6 science-backed benefits of blueberries, according to nutritionists

6 science-backed benefits of blueberries, according to nutritionists
Blueberries can be an easy, healthy snack.Massimo Rubino / EyeEm/ Getty Images
  • The benefits of blueberries include lowering cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity.
  • Blueberries' benefits come from their nutrient-dense profile and high antioxidant content.
  • To reap the benefits of blueberries, eat them as a snack or add them to your morning smoothie or oatmeal.

Blueberries not only make a great snack but are a healthy addition to most people's diet. These small fruits pack a powerful antioxidant punch, help lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity.

Here are six science-backed health benefits of blueberries:

1. Blueberries boast an impressive nutritional profile

Blueberries are an incredible source of nutrients. In one cup of blueberries, there is:
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  • Calories: 85
  • Fiber: 3.6 grams (13% DV). Fiber improves gut health, lowers cholesterol, and controls blood sugar levels.
  • Potassium: 116 milligrams (3% DV). Potassium regulates your heartbeat, metabolize carbohydrates, and maintain proper muscle function.
  • Vitamin K: 29 micrograms (24% DV). Vitamin K creates proteins needed for blood clotting.
  • Vitamin C: 4.6 milligrams (5% DV). Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your body absorb iron
  • Folate: 9 micrograms (2% DV). Folate forms red blood cells, which help the body receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

2. Blueberries are high in antioxidants

If you're looking to increase your antioxidant intake, blueberries have you covered. Antioxidants help to minimize inflammation which, in turn, reduces damage to cells.

"Some inflammation is normal, but chronically elevated levels over time can lead to disease," says Nicole DeMasi, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist with her own virtual private practice. "Blueberries are potent in the antioxidant anthocyanin, which helps lower your risk for cancer and chronic diseases."

In a 2013 review, researchers found pterostilbene - another antioxidant in blueberries - may help inhibit breast cancer and protect against heart disease.
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2. Blueberries improve cholesterol levels

Blueberries can also lower LDL cholesterol levels - the bad form of cholesterol which can clog arteries.

Blueberries contain phytosterols, a compound that can lower LDL levels. A 2017 review noted consuming about two grams of phytosterols a day has shown an 8% to 10% reduction in LDL levels in healthy adults.

3. Blueberries lower blood pressure

When eaten consistently, blueberries have been shown to help reduce blood pressure. In a small 2019 study, consuming a drink containing 200 grams of blueberries for one month reduced participants' blood pressure by 5 mmHg.
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Additionally, in a small 2015 study, postmenopausal women with elevated blood pressure who digested 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder daily for eight weeks saw a significant decrease in blood pressure compared to the control group.

4. Blueberries improve insulin sensitivity

Blueberries may help those who experience insulin resistance, such as people with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when the pancreas produces too much insulin, and cells stop responding properly to the hormone.

"Blueberries have the ability to improve insulin sensitivity," says Bansari Acharya, RDN, a registered dietitian-nutritionist in Detroit, Michigan. "The anthocyanins in blueberries are what aids in improving insulin sensitivity."
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In a small 2010 study of obese, non-diabetic but insulin-resistant people, 67% of participants who consumed blueberries saw at least a 10% improvement in insulin sensitivity, compared with only 41% in the placebo group.

"Blueberries can be a great choice for people with diabetes as they may contribute to improving insulin sensitivity, however, it is important not to exceed the recommended number of carbohydrates per meal," says Acharya.

That's because the body breaks carbohydrates down into sugar. People with diabetes should get 45% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. One cup of blueberries has 21.7 g of carbohydrates.
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5. Blueberries may improve cognitive functioning

Cognitive functioning refers to mental activities, such as thinking, learning, and remembering. More research is needed to understand how blueberries can limit cognitive decline, but some studies suggest they can help.

In a small 2011 study, older adults with early memory decline consumed blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks while another group consumed a berry placebo drink. After 12 weeks, those who consumed blueberry juice saw an improvement in memory function as well as a decrease in depressive symptoms.

6. Blueberries are a prebiotic

Blueberries contain prebiotics. Consuming prebiotics, a type of dietary fiber, can promote gut health.
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"Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that feed the healthy bacteria living in the gut," says DeMasi. "It's important for healthy bacteria to flourish, to crowd out any harmful bacteria that enter the digestive tract. Without a sufficient amount of good bacteria, bad bacteria increases, causing inflammation that can affect your immune system."

Insider's takeaway

Blueberries contain large amounts of nutrients such as fiber, potassium, and vitamins K and C. There are many science-backed benefits of blueberries, including boosting antioxidant levels, reducing cholesterol, and improving insulin activity. Further studies are needed to determine the full effects of blueberries on muscle recovery and cognitive functions.

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