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Blueberry power

Blueberries are shown.
Blueberries are superfoods that pack a punch of goodness our bodies need. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Like little bursts of sunshine, blueberries add sweetness to our summer days.

But those little berries are far more than just a tasty snack.

Each one packs a powerhouse of nutrients that build strong bones, strengthen our hearts, prevent cancer and help with weight control.

Jill Traxler, a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital, is an enthusiastic fan.

“I love blueberries,” she said. “They are delicious in almost anything you add them to.”

One of her favorite ways to eat blueberries is on pancakes. She pops frozen blueberries in the microwave for 30 seconds, then drizzles them over the hot cakes like syrup.

“The berries, along with the juices, add a little extra sweetness to breakfast,” she said.

She usually gets her berries from local markets, which stock the bounty of blueberries from West Michigan farms. She also makes a trip every summer to visit a friend in Alaska, where she picks wild blueberries on hikes.

Foraged or purchased, blueberries deliver much nutritional goodness. Traxler provided an overview of their benefits.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin C: “This has some very important functions in our body. It helps to form cartilage, muscle and collagen in our bones,” she said. “It also has healing properties. Vitamin C works to resist infections.”

Manganese: It promotes bone and cartilage formation, which in turn helps with wound healing.

Vitamin K: Our bodies use this in blood clotting.

Heart and digestive health

Blueberries are high in fiber, with 3.6 grams of fiber in each cup of berries.

“Fiber helps to regulate bowel movements, keep cholesterol levels low and regulate blood sugar,” Traxler said.

Because of this, blueberries can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation.

Antioxidant power

The antioxidants in blueberries protect against free radicals—which are found in exposure to smoke, radiation from the sun, X-rays and the breakdown of certain foods, such as charred foods.

“Antioxidants help to reduce inflammation and help with immunity, thus helping to resist infections,” Traxler said.

These antioxidant powers have been shown to protect against cancer.

And research shows they may delay the effects of vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Slimming perks

“Blueberries are great for weight control,” Traxler said.

A cup of blueberries has only 85 calories, just a trace of fat, and 21 grams of carbohydrates, including 3.6 grams of fiber.

That makes them a much more diet-friendly option than a popular chocolate bar, which has over 200 calories, 14 grams of fat and only 1.4 grams of fiber.

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