Sweet, juicy blueberries…not only are they delicious, but they may be important in the prevention of certain types of disease, specifically hypertension (otherwise known as high blood pressure).  Hypertension affects over one third of American adults, but making a simple addition of dark-colored fruits and vegetables to the daily diet may help.

Foods like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cranberries, black currants, eggplant and blood oranges contain anthocyanins - flavonoids that are proving to be very effective in the prevention of hypertension.

In a recent study, a team of British and American researchers examined the effects of different flavonoids on the health of roughly 157,000 people through dietary assessment and completion of health surveys over a 14-year period.

It was determined that people whose diets were high in anthocyanins were eight percent less likely to develop hypertension over time than people whose diets were low in these important flavonoids.

The study’s lead author, Professor Aedin Cassidy, stated, “Anthocyanins are present in many of the foods we already like to eat and so they are easily incorporated into the diet."  It was noted that participants of the study who consumed blueberries at least once a week were ten percent less likely to develop hypertension than people who ate no blueberries.

These findings are part of a growing body of evidence showing that compounds found in berries may be good for the prevention of many types of vascular disease.  In another study, researchers looked at data from 93,600 women, ages 25 to 42, participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II.

Women who consumed at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week lowered their risks for experiencing an early heart attack by 32 percent.  The heart benefits of the berries held strong - even after results were adjusted for age, high blood pressure, family history of heart attack, body-mass index, exercise, smoking and consumption of caffeine or alcohol.

Lead author, Dr. Eric Rimm, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health commented on the berry benefit by stating, "This simple dietary change could have a significant impact on prevention efforts." It was concluded that since berry consumption showed measurable early health effects, they were likely to benefit women later in life as well.

The team specifically examined intake of strawberries and blueberries because they are commonly consumed by people in the United States.  Other dark berries however, may have similar benefits.

In addition to the healthy properties mentioned above, blueberries are high in fiber, vitamin C and manganese, and they are only 80 calories a cup – making them a great addition for people watching their weight.  Delicious blueberries can be added to yogurt, cereal or oatmeal, baked into healthy desserts, or added to salads and smoothies.