Berries are a foodie trend that's not going away any time soon. Modern agricultural and food storage methods allow us to enjoy these small fruits year-round, so berries have become a regular part of many people's daily diet. This is especially true of blueberries, which could have some unexpected health benefits. According to new research, blueberries not only taste great but several of the compounds found in blueberries help kill cancer cells.
Berries: Tiny Fruits With Giant Health Benefits
Berries are not just sugar and crunch. They also provide some incredible benefits for human health. Berries are lower in calories than many other sweet snacks but also are packed full of vitamins and nutrients. Many of these nutrients double as antioxidants, compounds that help our cells repair routine damage. In addition, berries are high in fiber, which is good for the GI tract and also help us to feel full for a longer period of time after eating them.
All berries are healthy, but blueberries appear to have very special and specific advantages. For example, blueberries contain polyphenols, compounds that help to relax blood vessels and contribute to lifelong cardiovascular health. In addition, some of the compounds in blueberries appear to strengthen bones while protecting against diseases such as osteoporosis. However, several other health benefits appear to be due to other compounds called flavonoids and resveratrol: New research suggests that these compounds may contribute to why blueberries help kill cancer and protect against other serious life-threatening diseases.
How Can Blueberries Help Kill Cancer?
Radiation is a common treatment for certain types of cancer, often in conjunction with chemotherapy or surgery. However, it is not without side effects; radiation can cause damage to healthy cells in addition to cancerous ones. A new study looked at the benefits of blueberries by treating human cervical cancer cells with a combination of radiation and blueberry extract, while treating others from the same cell line with radiation alone. The cells that were treated with just radiation saw a 20 percent decrease in cancer cells. Those treated with radiation and blueberry extract had a 70 percent reduction in cancer cells, an increase of 50 percent. Researchers report that the blueberry extract made cancer cells more sensitive to radiation.
These effects of blueberries appear to be partially due to a compound called resveratrol. Besides providing a number of other health benefits, resveratrol, also present in red wine, has been found in previous studies to make cancer more sensitive to radiation, markedly increasing the number of prostate cancer cells that die in radiation treatments. This is significant because cancer patients will not just get a more effective treatment, but be able to get the same effects with less exposure to radiation.
Last, there are compounds called flavonoids in blueberries that have many health benefits. These molecules help to give blueberries their distinctive color and taste but also have been found to prevent the development of cancer when included as part of a healthy diet. Analogs of flavonoids in other kinds of fruit are already used as chemotherapy agents, so it makes sense that these molecules could have a measurable effect on cancer. Flavonoids appear to do this by encouraging more effective DNA repair, in a manner similar to antioxidants.
Healthy Diet, Healthy Life
This research is promising because blueberries are a readily available food with other proven health benefits. They are found over much of the world, allowing many patients to enjoy their health benefits. In addition, blueberries are delicious, which means people will be more likely to make them a regular part of their diet. There are several other easy ways to use food as a means of preventing and treating disease. If you want to get all of the benefits of a healthy diet, consider making the following changes:
- Eat a wide variety of foods, including ones from every color of the rainbow. This will ensure that you get a wide variety of healthy compounds and flavonoids.
- Focus on moderation. Over-eating can lead to becoming overweight, which is a health risk in itself.
- Include plants in your diet. Scientists say 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day should be the goal.
- Limit refined foods such as trans fats, white flour, and processed sugar. These offer mainly empty calories without the benefits of flavonoids and other healthy compounds.
- Look for ways to get more fish and plant protein.
- Eat more fiber. Whole grains, vegetables, and yes, blueberries have the fiber you need to achieve better gastrointestinal health while lowering your chances of developing colon cancer.
Sometimes it seems like the best tasting foods are all bad for us, while healthy food lacks the flavors that we crave. However, there are several foods that are both delicious and healthy. Blueberries are a sweet treat that we all can enjoy with no guilt, for both the taste and the many health benefits. While no food can guarantee that you live a long and healthy life, blueberries are one of many foods that will improve your chances of a healthy, happy old age.