It’s strange to think that around 20 years ago blueberries weren’t the everyday fruit that they are today – what on earth were we thinking? Fortunately, in the intervening years, a lot of research has been conducted into this wonderful little berry and we are finally making the most of it – just check out our Blueberry Thrill Smoothie to see one of its many incredible uses!
Blueberry plants have been around for 13,000 years. Originally found in America, they were enjoyed by Native Americans who recognised the many health benefits of blueberries. When Europeans started to settle over there, they were clearly far too civilised to learn anything from the indigenous people of the land, and therefore waited a few hundred years before they realised that those little blue balls of fruit were actually delicious, and could be cultivated.
So it was around the turn of the 20th century that farmers started to experiment with planting and harvesting blueberries – the first commercial crop was produced in 1916. At this point, the western world was still oblivious to just how wonderful blueberries are for our bodies – they were just grown because they tasted nice. Which is fair enough, because they really do.
Blueberries didn’t really come to the UK until 1952, when a farmer, David Trehane, took up an offer in the Farmer’s Chronicle – a Canadian parson, WT Suckling, had 80 plants that he wanted to give away for free to people in the UK. Only four people replied… But the plants thrived on Mr Trehane’s land, and by 1957 he purchased 1,000 more plants to start growing them commercially. His family still run the Dorset Blueberry Company to this day.
Even though they were being grown all over North America and Europe, blueberries hadn’t really captured the hearts and minds of people towards the end of the 20th century. Perhaps we were all traumatised as children by the fate of Violet Beauregarde in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…?
Everything changed for blueberries at the start of the 21st century. This was around the time that we started to pay more attention to nutrition, and the term ‘superfood’ came into common parlance. We all started to become aware that blueberries are packed full of nutritional benefits, and we needed them in our diets. Demand sky-rocketed. Between 2008 and 2013, blueberry production in the UK increased by 482%, and it has continued to rise ever since.
As we mentioned earlier, blueberries are a superfood, and they offer a wide variety of health benefits. We’re going to run through a few of these now:
Blueberries contain high levels of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the inner muscles of our blood vessels. This, in turn, helps to lower blood pressure, which puts less strain on our hearts and makes us less likely to experience a heart attack or a stroke.
In a study conducted in 2019, 115 people were split into three groups – one that ate half a cup of blueberries a day, one that ate a full cup of blueberries a day and a placebo group. The results were pretty conclusive – eating a cup of blueberries a day is thought to reduce your chances of cardiovascular diseases by between 12%-15%.
Blueberries contain antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. These little compounds are great for so many reasons – not only are they antioxidant, but they’re also anti-inflammatory, antiviral and have neuroprotective effects. Which means that they can help to keep our brains healthy.
This was put to the test by a study in 2010 which concluded “This study indicated that wild blueberry juice supplementation for 12 weeks improved memory function in older adults with early memory decline.” So blueberries can help fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Blueberries also contain a lot of fibre – more per gram than strawberries, apples, plums and peaches. Fibre is key to helping us remove cholesterol, by combining it with bile and sending it out with the other waste from our bodies. It’s a bit like a drain unblocker – you send it down there and it helps clean out the system!
As a general rule, we don’t have enough fibre in our diets. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, we need around 30g of fibre a day, but on average we only get around 20g. High cholesterol is just one of the potential health issues we can face without enough fibre – see also type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. Eating more blueberries can stop a lot of problems before they happen.
On top of all that, a cup of blueberries will also give you:
I know they already had good PR – but did you know that they were this great?!
There are many ways to get more blueberries into your diet – now that you have seen exactly what good that can do. Our favourite way, though, is adding them to one of our amazing smoothies. All your nutrients in one incredible drink. Try our Detox Zing or Oat Of This World smoothies for the ultimate kick-start to your day.
Right, now we’re off to listen to this Eiffel 65 song which has been going through our head all morning. Send help.
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