Need another reason to add blueberries to your diet? Well, aside from their delicious flavor, this sweet fruit could lower your risk of heart disease.
The Link Between Blueberries and Heart Health
According to a new study, people who consume 1 cup of blueberries in their daily diet for six months or longer are less likely to develop heart disease than their counterparts who consume less blueberries. Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study focused on older adults 50 years of age or older who were already suffering from an underlying medical condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar.
Over six months, researchers monitored the study's participants' health markers as well as their consumption of blueberries. At the end of the study, researchers concluded that participants who consumed 1 cup of blueberries daily had improved heart function than those consumed less.
"Our test showed that 1 cup of blueberries per day for six months generally improved the vascular environment by increasing the responsiveness of arteries to [induce] changes in blood flow, improving the flexibility of systemic arteries, and at the same time, increasing the concentration of good lipids and lipoproteins," said the study's lead author, Dr. Peter Curts.
Why Blueberries Are Good for Your Heart
Researchers cite two specific compounds in blueberries that make them good for the heart: antioxidants and fiber. Like other fruits -- especially colorful fruits like berries -- blueberries contain natural plant-based antioxidants known as flavonoids. It's believed that these flavonoids promote the relaxation of blood vessels. When you consume blueberries, for example, these compounds cause your blood vessels to relax, meaning blood can flow through your body with greater ease.
In addition to antioxidants, blueberries also contain fiber. Of course, fiber has been shown to link to the risk of heart disease as well. It works to flush cholesterol out of your arteries and blood vessels, thereby preventing blockages that could otherwise lead to heart disease.
How to Get More Blueberries in Your Diet
You can take advantage of the heart-health benefits of blueberries by adding more of this fruit to your diet. Blueberries are the perfect grab-and-go snack. When you're running late for work, toss a handful of blueberries into a sealed plastic back.
Another way to get more blueberries in your diet is to mix them in yogurt. If you regularly eat yogurt, try topping it off with blueberries. Furthermore, you can create delicious smoothies using blueberries. Using a blender, mix together yogurt, skim milk and blueberries for a delicious smoothie.