The Health Benefits of Blueberries, Explained

Here's what makes blueberries so good for you — plus, how you can incorporate them into your kitchen and skin-care routines, according to experts.

There's no denying it: blueberries add a refreshing bite to any dish, drink, or snack. Flavor aside, these tart and bright fruits are packed with nutrients and provide lasting health benefits, thus earning them the well-deserved title of "superfood."

Sure, you know the basics — little blue orbs filled with juice and nutrients — but there's so much more behind what makes a blueberry, well, a blueberry. So, let's jump into the many (seriously so many) health benefits of blueberries.

repeating bowls of blueberries, creating a pattern
Yulia Reznikov/Getty

What Are Blueberries?

One of the few fruits native to North America, blueberries are small blue or purple fruits that grow above ground on bushes. While there are many different types of blueberries across the world, the most common variety — and the one you're likely to find decorating supermarket shelves — is the highbush blueberry. The highbush blueberry comes from a flowering bush that grows small white flowers that bloom into hard green berries, and those, when ripened in the early summer months, become blueberries, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The peak season for blueberries in North America is in June and July, but due to commercial production across the globe (it's the 21st century, after all), they're now available year-round.

Blueberries Nutrition Facts

"Blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits, not only due to their high vitamin C content, but also antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber that are protective against oxidative stress," says Ella Davar, R.D., C.D.N., an integrative dietitian nutritionist in New York City. "Blueberries also contain a bioactive compound called anthocyanin," a type of antioxidant-rich flavonoid responsible for the coloring and many health benefits of blueberries, she adds. The deeper or darker the pigment, the more anthocyanins (and antioxidants) are present. In addition to antioxidants, blueberries are rich in nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, as well as vitamins C, E, and K.

Here is the nutritional information for one cup of blueberries, according to the USDA:

  • 84 calories
  • 1 gram protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 22 grams carbohydrate
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 15 grams sugar

Health Benefits of Blueberries

For a little sphere of a fruit, these blueberries pack a whole lot of health benefits into a small package. But now that you understand what's in a blueberry, how does that translate to your health?

Improve Immune and Gut Health

Good news: Blueberries can help build a strong immune system. ICYMI above, blueberries are packed with anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid or phytochemical (aka disease-fighting compounds found in plants) known for their anti-inflammatory properties, explains Davar.

"Blueberry phytochemicals and fiber affect GI microflora (gut bacteria and microbes) which is where 60 to 80 percent of our immune system originates from," details Davar. And multiple studies suggest that the anthocyanins in blueberries can improve the gut microbiome by aiding good gut bacteria and, in turn, helping reduce gut inflammation and boosting overall immunity, according to the USDA. This berry is also packed with illness-fighting vitamin C and zinc to help you avoid getting sick.

Support Heart Health

When it comes to the health benefits of blueberries, anthocyanins surely steal the spotlight. In addition to boosting GI health and overall immunity, the anthocyanins in these berries can also contribute to healthy cardiovascular aging and "sustained cardiovascular benefits," according to research published in the Journals of Gerontology. Additionally, in a study by the American Heart Association, participants who ate blueberries (and strawberries, another good source of anthocyanins) three or more times during the week lowered their risk of heart attack by 32 percent.

Blueberries are also filled with heart-healthy fiber, and diets rich in fiber have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. How? Specifically, blueberries are packed with soluble fiber, the type of fiber that breaks down in water and turns into a gel-like substance. As Shape previously reported, soluble fiber binds with LDL ("bad") cholesterol while traveling through the digestive system, effectively keeping it from entering your bloodstream. Et voilà: lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol, a health benefit that has been associated with a lower heart disease risk.

Help Reduce Risk of Cancer

By now, you (hopefully) know that blueberries are loaded with antioxidants. In fact, they're believed to have one of the highest concentrations of these disease-fighting compounds out of all fruits and veggies. Why is this important? Because antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which include cancer-causing molecules. ICYDK, free radicals are unstable molecules that, in excess, can cause oxidative stress in the body, which is a process that causes cell damage and can increase the risk of chronic conditions — including cancer. Antioxidants can neutralize those free radicals, thereby lessening your risk of those negative effects.

The cancer-fighting properties of blueberries don't stop there. Research also suggests that blueberries and blueberry juice have the power to reduce DMA damage, which is a major culprit in causing and progressing cancer.

Strengthen Bones

Blueberries contain vitamin K, a vitamin that promotes strong bones and lessens the risk of breaking one, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Vitamin K plays an important role in the formation of osteocalcin, a protein that helps calcium bind to bones," Jamie Miller, R.D.N., a registered dietitian at Village Health Clubs & Spas in Arizona, previously told Shape. In addition to this important vitamin, blueberries contain magnesium and calcium which, the NIH notes, also contribute to bone strength and development.

Help Manage Diabetes

These berries are considered a perfect snack for diabetics by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) because, in addition to their aforementioned health perks, blueberries have a low glycemic index and are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar.

Boost Brain Function

Not only are blueberries a sound investment for your physical health, but they're also beneficial for your mental wellness. Research suggests that the consumption of blueberries can slow cognitive decline, improve memory recall, and reduce depression symptoms in older populations. What's more, a study published in the Annals of Neurology found that adding at least one serving of blueberries to participants' weekly diets slowed cognitive decline in older adult women by two and a half years.

Nourish Skin

"The antioxidant power of blueberries has the potential to be just as effective on the skin as in the body," says Eliza Savage, M.S., R.D., author of Healing Through Nutrition: The Essential Guide to 50 Plant-Based Nutritional Sources. "That's because they're "rich in antioxidants, including flavonoids that can help calm inflammation," and, in turn, "protect cells from damage caused by stressors," explains Mary L. Stevenson, M.D., a New York City–based dermatologic surgeon. (More on how to use blueberries for skin in a bit.)

Potential Risks of Blueberries

Overall, blueberries are fabulous for your health. That being said, eating raw blueberries filled with a large amount of fiber and acidity can be tough on sensitive stomachs, says Davar. Eating too much fiber may cause bloating, gas, and cramps, so even though blueberries are delicious and nutritious, don't eat too many in one sitting.

It's also worth noting that blueberries are a potential allergen and can therefore cause an allergic reaction. Food allergy symptoms can vary in severity, ranging from shortness of breath to hives to a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. If this is your first time trying blueberries, be cautious — and if you're really worried that you might have an allergic reaction to the berries, visit your doc or an allergist before digging in.

How to Buy and Use Blueberries

Ready to add blueberries to your grocery list? If you're craving fresh blueberries, head to your grocery store's produce section and look in the refrigerated aisle. To pick the best fresh blueberries, look for fruits that are plump and a deep blue shade with a bit of gray dusting on the surface, and avoid those that have a red hue, as they're underripe and will taste tart, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. Also, look out for berries that are wrinkly or packages with juice stains on the container, as these are signs that the berries are spoiling and past their prime.

Once you get them home, store blueberries in the fridge in their original package or an airy container to let them breathe and lengthen their freshness, and only wash your berries once you're ready to eat them, per the North Carolina Blueberry Council. Ideally, your blueberries will last up to two weeks when stored properly, but aim to eat them within a week for the best-tasting experience.

Fresh isn't the only way to buy blueberries, though — you can also find frozen blueberries bagged and ready for use. And, contrary to what you might have heard, freezing blueberries does not take away their nutritional value. Quite the opposite actually, as "freezing fruit at their peak ripeness may help to better preserve the nutrients" compared to fresh berries sitting in the fridge for a week or so, explains Savage. Not to mention, buying frozen blueberries is usually a more economical decision.

According to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, you can also find blueberries freeze-dried, powdered, canned, or in juice form. With the latter two options, you'll want to check the nutrition label of the product you intend to purchase to make sure there's not a bunch of added sugar.

Got your berries? Now it's time to use 'em. Here are a few ways you can add the little blue orbs to your diet (and even your skin-care routine!):

In breakfast foods. Blueberries are the backbone of breakfast foods, whether as a fruity topping on, say, oatmeal pancakes or mixed with your go-to oats. They're also a great low-sugar alternative to traditional syrup, says Savage. "You can make a homemade blueberry syrup by heating 1/2 to 1 cup of mashed blueberries in a saucepan over medium (heat) until it gels. For an extra fiber punch, add a tablespoon or two of chia seeds," she explains.

In salads. Whether included in a chopped chicken salad or even mixed into a dressing, there are many ways to incorporate the refreshing taste of blueberry into a salad. "If you add blueberries to your typical spinach, avocado, and chicken salad, you may boost the absorption of iron from the spinach and chicken. The vitamin C in blueberries boosts iron absorption," explains Savage.

In baked goods and desserts. Blueberries are an ideal natural sweetener for baked goods such as banana bread or muffins because "they're a great low-glycemic substitute for white sugar — or even 'healthier' sugar alternatives like maple syrup and honey," notes Savage.

In cocktails. "Adding antioxidant-rich blueberries adds a flavorful sweet punch to cocktails and can replace or reduce the nutrient-void simple syrup," says Savage. Try muddling 1/2 cup of blueberries and adding to your fave cocktail — but be sure to retain the skin since it contains most of the fruit's antioxidant and fiber content, she recommends.

In a face mask. As mentioned, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, which help fight inflammation and protect cells from damage that causes fine lines and wrinkles. If you want to try your hand at creating your own blueberry face mask, mash 1/4 cup of blueberries with 1/4 cup of full-fat yogurt and apply the mixture to your face for 15–20 minutes, recommends Dr. Stevenson. For a vegan alternative, you can swap in 1/2 of a small avocado and 1/3 teaspoon of honey instead of the yogurt. That being said, eating the fruit is likely the best way to reap the many health benefits of blueberries, emphasizes Dr. Stevenson. "Eat healthy, and your skin will get the benefits too," she notes.

In smoothie bowls. "Aside from the Insta-worthy blue hue, blueberries add a depth of flavor, boost of fiber, and sweetness to smoothies," says Savage. "My favorite blend contains frozen blueberries, half a frozen banana, a handful of spinach, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, some ice, almond milk, and cinnamon. Perfection!" she suggests.

For another fun and healthy treat, check out the berry parfait recipe below.

Antioxidant Berry Smoothie Parfait


  • 1 cup mixed berries (ex: blueberries and raspberries)
  • 1 apple or banana
  • 1 small beet
  • 1-inch nub fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 cup plant-based milk (ex: flax, cashew, or almond)
  • 1 tablespoon hemp hearts, chia seeds, or flaxseed
  • 2 dates (optional)
  • 2–3 tablespoons yogurt, or to taste (Davar recommends Greek or Bulgarian)


  1. Add berries, apple/banana, beet, ginger, almond butter, milk, and seeds into a blender. Blend on a high speed until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl or parfait glass, add a layer of yogurt and top with blended mixture.

Recipe courtesy of Ella Davar

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