THE BLOG
01/28/2015 11:06 am ET Updated Mar 30, 2015

Blueberries -- Powerful Medicine for Lowering Your BP

As a board-certified naturopath, I know the healing power of real foods. And that includes even the tiniest of foods -- like blueberries!

In fact, blueberries are one of my favorite "prescriptions," because they're absolutely loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients. They may taste like candy, but they're actually powerful medicine.

Just this week, researchers at Florida State University published a new study about the power of blueberries. The study shows that these little berries can have a big effect when it comes to lowering your blood pressure and keeping your arteries elastic.

The new study involved 48 postmenopausal women with "prehypertension" or hypertension. The women ate either 22 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder (the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries) or 22 grams of a placebo powder every day for eight weeks.

At the end of that time, participants receiving the blueberry powder had an average decrease of 5.1 percent in systolic blood pressure and 6.3 percent in diastolic blood pressure. That translated into 7 points in systolic pressure and 5 points in diastolic pressure -- a big drop. In addition, women in the blueberry-treated group had an average reduction of 6.5 percent in arterial stiffness.

The researchers also found that levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes and widens blood vessels, increased by 68.5 percent in the women in the blueberry-treated group. The researchers say this change in nitric oxide levels may explain the reductions in blood pressure.

Those are major changes in just eight weeks. So don't underestimate these berries just because they're small and cute. Inside those little balls of sweetness is some serious BP-lowering power.

And really, wouldn't you rather indulge in a bowl of blueberries and cream for breakfast -- or maybe stir a sweet handful of dried blueberries into your yogurt at lunch -- than pop a pill? If you've ever taken blood pressure meds, you know they cause debilitating side effects like dizziness, dry mouth, cough, irregular heartbeat, and constipation. The only side effect from blueberries, conversely, is that little fritz of joy each time you bite into them.

So if you want to keep your blood pressure levels healthy and low, add blueberries to your daily diet and see what they can do for you. If you're not a fan of these fruits, consider buying capsules of powdered blueberries.

And by the way, the blood pressure-lowering effect of blueberries isn't the only reason to love them. Here are more:

• They fight wrinkles. Blueberries are packed with antioxidants called acanthocyanins (that's what makes them blue), and acanthocyanins protect your skin against sun-related damage and wrinkling.

• They can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or lower your blood glucose levels if you're diabetic.

• They can help protect your eyes against damage from sunlight.

• They can keep your brain young, delaying cognitive decline as you age.

• They can help protect against breast cancer and prostate cancer.

So stock up on blueberries -- fresh, frozen, and dried. Add them to smoothies and toss them in your salads. Stir them into Paleo pancake and muffin recipes, or sprinkle them on salmon.

And if you have kids, make sure you load them up with blueberries, too. But shhh... don't tell them that blueberries are powerful medicine. We'll keep that secret between us.