We know blueberries are healthy. Packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids, they are also high in vitamins and minerals like potassium and vitamin C.
To take advantage of all these health benefits, vitamin manufacturers have begun drying blueberries and their leaves to make an extract in the form of liquid or tablets. So what's the purpose of blueberry supplements when you can buy the fruit itself for $2.99 at the local grocery? (Read about how to Power Your Training Diet and Boost Recovery With Blueberries.)
The purpose of supplements is to make up for deficiencies in your diet; they're not magic pills. For people who struggle to consume enough fruits and vegetables, a blueberry supplement could possibly be a useful alternative.
It's too early to tell if blueberry supplements are a gimmick. There is simply not enough research to support the hypothesis that blueberry supplements deliver the same significant health benefits as real berries. (See Power Your Training With Superfoods.)
You should always be cautious when trying new supplements, even those made from fruits like blueberries. Be particularly on guard against blueberry leaf supplements that claim to include blueberry extract. According to WebMD, there is an insufficient amount of research on blueberry leaves to ensure health safety. Always check with a doctor or certified nutritionist before consuming any form of supplement.
We at least know that blueberries are safe. Here are two major reasons why you need more of them in your diet.
Score Extra Antioxidants
The USDA reports that compared to other berries and fruits, blueberries have the highest ORAC value. This means they contain a higher level of antioxidant activity to protect your body from damage caused by unstable free radical molecules.
Typically if you consume the USDA recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, your body will be able to handle free radicals on its own. But when antioxidants are unavailable in your body, long-term cell damage can occur . This can lead to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease .
Boost Your Brainpower
Blueberries may also have a positive effect on memory. The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University reports that a diet of blueberries might improve one's motor skills and reverse short-term memory loss .
Another study found evidence to support the USDA's findings as well. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center found that consuming blueberries may help improve memory cognition .
Include blueberries in your diet as much as possible. Smoothies, shakes, yogurt and nutrition bars are all options for increasing your blueberry consumption. (Check out The DIY Athlete: Homemade Fruit Smoothies and Super Oatmeal.)
 Young, I. S., & Woodside, J. V. (2001). Antioxidants in health and disease. Journal of clinical pathology, 54(3), 176-186.
 Sun, A. Y., Wang, Q., Simonyi, A., & Sun, G. Y. (2008). Botanical phenolics and brain health. Neuromolecular medicine, 10(4), 259-274.
 Krikorian, Robert et. al. (2010) Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock