Most people don’t need to be given much incentive to eat blueberries. They’re delicious—on ice cream, with your granola, by themselves. But these little indigo berries provide more than a burst of flavor on your tongue. Blueberries pack a powerful antioxidant punch, which helps combat cancer, cardiovascular disease and the aging process.
Blueberries have earned themselves a spot on the list of “superfoods” for good reason—they contain numerous powerful phytonutrients—plant-derived compounds that have been proven effective in maintaining optimal health.
Among the phytonutrients are anthocyanins. These compounds are responsible for the rich blueberry color. These pigments serve several purposes for the plant:
Anthocyanins can provide the same protection from free radicals to those who eat them. Oxygen molecules released during metabolic processes can damage vulnerable compounds and cells as they seek a free electron to make them more stable. This process is responsible for breaking down collagen, elastin and other components of the extracellular matrix, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin.
Oxidation is also behind the development and metastases of cancers. Increasing the number of compounds that can absorb free radicals and prevent them from damaging cells and their components boosts immune system performance and prevents a host of diseases.
Like anthocyanins, hydroxycinnamic acids also provide antioxidant protection, but they also have notable anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Blueberries contain notable amounts of two particular hydroxycinnamic acids, each with some special skin health benefits.
Ferulic acid is a known skin booster—its antioxidant properties are known to be effective in protecting skin cells. Ferulic acid also acts as a natural sunscreen by protecting skin cells from UV radiation.
Coumaric acid’s anti-inflammatory properties have been found to protect capillaries from damage. This protection can diminish the appearance of dark circles under the eyes, which are often caused by capillaries that have been broken because of rubbing the delicate skin around the eyes.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of hydroxycinnamic acids are not limited to the skin, though. Their benefits are also noticeable on the cardiovascular system, too.
Blueberries contain many more types of phytonutrients with all kinds of interesting names:
The protection that these compounds provide for the plant can protect your skin, your vessels and your immune functions! It’s hard to say exactly how many blueberries you need to eat to reap the benefits of their phytonutrient content. Phytonutrients are not currently classified as essential nutrients, so there are no recommended daily amounts (RDA).
However, making blueberries a regular inclusion among your recommended three to five servings of fresh fruits each day will put you on the path to improved skin health…and there’s not better time to start than now! July is National Blueberry Month! Pick up fresh blueberries at your local market (organic are best) while they’re in season and freeze them to enjoy their delicious skin protection year round!