We love eating these tasty little morsels of goodness, so why wouldn’t our pets? Blueberries have top-notch antioxidant properties; in fact, they possess some of the highest antioxidant values among all foods!
Optimal health depends on antioxidant activity to combat the free radicals that can impair cellular structures and damage DNA. Researcher Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, is a professor of nutrition at Boston’s Tufts University. “Oxidation is a natural process that happens during normal cellular functions,” he says. “While the body metabolizes oxygen very efficiently, 1% or 2% of cells will get damaged in the process and turn into free radicals.”
The damaged cells are free because they’re missing a critical molecule and that sends them “rampaging” freely about to pair with another molecule. “If free radicals simply killed a cell, it wouldn’t be so bad… the body could just regenerate another one,” Blumberg says. When free radicals damage DNA, however, it creates an opening for disease.”
Foods like blueberries have the antioxidant properties to neutralize free radicals by providing an extra electron needed to stabilize the molecule, or breaking down the free radical molecule to render it harmless. Blueberries include phenolic compounds with an antioxidant capacity significantly higher than vitamins C or E, according to Alison Hornby, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association.
If this weren’t enough reason to indulge in occasional blueberry binging, research points to their cardiovascular benefits. Blueberries provide fiber, manganese and vitamin K, all of which enhance heart function while lowering the risk of stroke. Eye health is yet another benefit of blueberry consumption. In laboratory animal studies, the anthocyanins in blueberries protected the retina from oxygen damage. And finally, studies show that eating blueberries helps older dogs improve cognitive function.
Low in calories, high in nutrients, it’s clear that the blueberry is a tiny juicy sphere bursting with health-boosting properties that no diet–animal or human–should be without.
Joan Marie Williams is a writer and editor living in Keene, Ontario, where her foster dogs chase balls or snooze until they find their forever homes. She is the founder of K9training4life, a program that guides young people in training shelter dogs to facilitate canine adoption.