Readily available in the supermarkets, the blueberry is often touted as a superfruit, capable of almost mystifying feats of preventing heart disease and cancer, and may even combat the aging process. Something we can be certain of is that blueberries are a good source of dietary fibre, an excellent source of antioxidants and provides some vitamin C and iron. This in itself should be substance enough to consider including blueberries into your diet on a regular basis. But what about some of the other claims?
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been the topic of much research due to their proposed performance benefits. Strenuous exercise is known to cause oxidative stress and an inflammatory state within the body. A study by McAnulty and colleagues (2011) examined whether 250 g of blueberries per day for 6 days influenced oxidative stress, inflammation and markers of immune function following 2.5 hours of running. The researchers reported that daily blueberry consumption reduces oxidative stress and increases anti-inflammatory responses.
Increasing levels of dietary antioxidants is a common strategy for reducing muscle soreness after exercise. McLeay and colleagues (2012) investigated the effect of ingesting a blueberry smoothie before and after eccentric exercise to induce muscle damage. The results demonstrated that blueberry consumption accelerates recovery of muscle strength. The interesting factor however, was that these positive effects were not down to the antioxidant properties of the blueberries, but some other factor that improved the adaptive processes of the muscle. More research is required to ascertain the exact mechanism behind these proposed benefits.
So it appears that the meager blueberry does have some promising health and performance benefits, but some of the more extreme touted benefits should be taken at arms length. To get the most out of your blueberries, eat them raw as the cooking process diminishes their nutrient content.