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With their tight blue jackets, blueberries are sturdy and self-contained, making them one of the most mess-free and versatile of edible berries. Sweet and juicy with a signature spicy scent, wild blueberries grow on bushes native to North America, and farmers have been carefully cultivating domesticated blueberries for more than a century.

Blueberries have anthocyanins to thank for their hue. Because they have such potent anti-inflammatory properties, eating just a third of a cup of blueberries a day may lower the risk of several diseases. These berries improve blood-vessel function, making arteries more flexible and less likely to stiffen with corrosive plaque.

A six-month study, the longest of its kind, published in 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that eating a cup of blueberries a day lowered the risk of heart disease by up to 15 percent for people with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions (including high blood pressure) that besets up to a third of American adults.

In the kitchen, blueberries freeze well. They hold their shape when tossed into pancake or muffin batter. Surprisingly, cooked blueberries may be even better for you than fresh ones: According to some sources, heat makes their phytonutrients more bioavailable. And if you’ve ever noticed a greenish tint to cooked blueberries (say, in blueberry muffins), that’s a harmless side effect of the berry’s delicate pH moshing with the recipe’s more alkaline ingredients, such as baking soda.

(See “Blueberries: Recipes, Techniques, and More” for more on these nutritional superstars.)

This was excerpted from “11 Berries to Eat and Their Health Benefits” which was published in Experience Life.

Catherine Guthrie

Catherine Guthrie is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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