Blueberries contain plant chemicals that may help lower your cholesterol.
For such a small fruit, blueberries pack a powerful nutritional punch. They are filled with nutrients and disease-fighting compounds that can help lower your cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Always speak to your doctor if you're concerned about your cholesterol. There are many cholesterol-lowering drugs on the market, but often diet and exercise can do the trick. Adding a handful of blueberries to your daily routine may help get your cholesterol numbers in the healthy range.
Blueberries contain the phytochemical, or plant derivative, pterostilbene. A study published in 2005 in the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" showed pterostilbene lowers low-density lipoprotein, also known as "bad" cholesterol, and raises high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol. Elevated LDL cholesterol deposits in your arteries, causing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. HDL removes cholesterol from your arteries and returns it to your liver, where it's disposed of. This reduces your risk of heart disease.
Inside Your Body
Pterostilbene works in your body the same way the cholesterol-lowering medication ciprofibrate does. It attaches to and acts on the receptor PPAR-alpha, a protein that regulates blood cholesterol levels. When it attaches, it lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol, according to Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton. Unlike the medication ciprofibrate, pterostilbene does not cause side effects, such as nausea and muscle pain.
While pterostilbene shows promise, the research was conducted in test tubes and on animals rather than using human subjects. More research is needed to determine the effect on human subjects. Vinson says the greatest cholesterol-lowering effects may come from a blueberry extract, which in the future may be used to make a nutraceutical, or medication from plant substances. Regardless, blueberries have potential to lower cholesterol and make a quality snack option because of their low fat and sodium content and high amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Other Cholesterol Fighters
One cup of blueberries also provides you with 3.6 grams of fiber, or 14 percent the dietary reference intake for women and 9 percent for men ages 19 to 50. The soluble fiber found in blueberries lowers cholesterol levels and reduces your risk for heart disease, according to MedlinePlus. Blueberries also contain antioxidants. Antioxidants don't directly lower cholesterol levels, but they prevent plaque buildup in your arteries by stopping LDL from being oxidized, which reduces your risk for heart disease.