The paleo diet philosophy argues that we should be eating the way people ate more than 10,000 years ago: feasting on fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, fish and free-range meat. The research that supports this notion also points to one particular superfruit that should be on everybody’s menu.
Or maybe we should call it a superberry. Blueberries have been found to convey so many health benefits that they easily have achieved a revered place on the paleo palate.
Let’s start with those extra pounds you may be trying to lose. Blueberries very well may be helpful in aiding you in your weight-loss quest.
Research at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, shows that the polyphenols (natural plant chemicals) in blueberries are instrumental in influencing a physiological process called adipocyte differentiation.
During this process, cells in your body develop into adipocytes, a type of connective tissue that creates and stores fat. The polyphenols in blueberries slow the creation of fat cells (adipogenesis) and ramp up lipolysis, the breakdown of fat.
As a result, researcher Shiwani Moghe believes, blueberries may help keep those fat cells from accumulating around your waist. “The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce adipose tissue from forming in the body,” Moghe said.
Lab tests have helped researchers understand how blueberries can improve heart health.
In an experiment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Research Service in Little Rock, Ark., researchers have shown that blueberries can slow the development of arterial plaque, the blockages that form in arteries and that can stop blood flow to the heart.
In these tests, blueberries were found to reduce the size of arterial lesions by 40 percent to 60 percent.
The scientists believe that blueberries produce these cardiovascular benefits by increasing the activity of four antioxidant enzymes and shrinking the oxidative stress in arteries that would otherwise impede the movement of blood through the arteries. They also believe that all of us should be eating blueberries at all ages to reap these benefits.
Impressively, blueberries don’t merely help along important health-promoting processes in the body; they also can help other vitamins be more powerful in their duties.
For instance, consider the benefits of vitamin D. It, too, promotes heart health while reducing the risk of certain cancers, protecting the immune system and warding off illness.
And it can do those jobs even better if you eat blueberries.
A study at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University shows that a chemical in blueberries called pterostilbene assists vitamin D in improving your immune system.
While the technical details of this interaction are complex, the scientists basically found that it involves what is called the cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) gene. The CAMP gene helps your body fight off bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.
And while vitamin D increases the activities of the CAMP gene, if you eat some blueberries, vitamin D does its job even more effectively.
Luckily, you can eat blueberries year-round. Frozen, organic blueberries are available in many supermarkets anytime you’re in the mood.
I like eating frozen blueberries all by themselves as a treat. You can also toss them onto almonds and other nuts with a little bit of honey and dark chocolate for an easy paleo dessert.
Your immune system and the rest of your body will be glad you did.