For many years nutritionists and researchers ignored the tiny blueberry because of its relatively low vitamin C content. However, what these people didn't know was that the healthful benefits of blueberries stem mainly from their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are non-vitamin, non-mineral components of food that have significant health benefits. There are literally thousands of different types of phytonutrients, and each phytonutrient is unique in both its physical characteristics and its function. Research has shown that phytonutrients help the body cells communicate with each other more efficiently, prevent mutations at the cellular level, prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, and there is still much more that we are learning about the powers of phytonutrients everyday.
Blueberries are so rich in phytonutrients that even though they aren't filled with the antioxidant vitamins C and E, they still provide as much antioxidant protection to the body as 1,733 IU of vitamin E and more than 1200 milligrams of vitamin C.
It is recommended that 1 to 2 cups of blueberries should be consumed daily to obtain the full health benefits of this amazing blue fruit.
The research that really put blueberries on the map brought exciting news that this fruit seemed to slow, and even reverse, many of the degenerative diseases that are associated with the aging of the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. By helping our brain cells communicate more efficiently, blueberries are actually helping to halt the progression of the degenerative diseases that are associated with the aging of the brain.
The primary reason that humans develop age related degenerative brain diseases is because as we age our brain cells become less and less effective at communicating with each other. This is due to the fact that the signals that these cells send out to their neighbouring cells weaken over time. When these signals become too weak to allow effective communication between each other, neurological pathways are lost and brain function is diminished.
In the area of cancer, new and exciting research has now linked the consumption of blueberries (as part of a regular diet) with the prevention of cancer. Once again it's the high phytonutrient content that's responsible for this benefit. In this case, the major phytonutrient responsible for producing this effect is ellagic acid. Ellagic acid is also found in high quantities within other berries, including:
• Black and red raspberries • Blackberries • Marionberries • Boysenberries
This phytonutrient tends to be located in the seeds of these berries, making the aforementioned berries three to nine times more potent sources of ellagic acid than other good sources, such as strawberries, walnuts, and pecans. Various studies on ellagic acid have shown that people who consume foods that are high in ellagic acid are three times less likely to develop cancer when compared to those who consume very little or no dietary ellagic acid.