The health benefits of blueberries have been demonstrated in various nutrition studies. The dark pigment of blueberries is indicative of their dense concentration of polyphenols, which are a type of phytochemical that have antioxidant, health-promoting, disease-fighting, anti-aging, and even weight management properties.

Anthocyanins are the colorful antioxidant polyphenols that give blueberries their rich color, and research has shown they possess a wide range of health benefits. Specifically, cyanidin 3-glucoside (C3G), which is a member of the anthocyanin family, has been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and improve carbohydrate tolerance, both of which have major implications for optimizing fat loss and weight management.

What’s more, anthocyanins have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the function of fat cells, which plays an intricate role in improving metabolic health and reducing body fat. Researchers from Texas Women’s University recently demonstrated that the polyphenols in blueberries may help reduce body fat by inhibiting the body’s ability to create new fat cells.

Even more, researchers from New Zealand found that consumption of blueberries may also accelerate muscle recovery when combined with exercise. Specifically, folks who consumed a blueberry smoothie before and after exercise experienced reduced muscle soreness, faster recovery, and greater improvements in strength, which translates to more frequent exercise, improved performance, and better body composition.

Building and maintaining muscle is crucial for metabolic rate and carbohydrate tolerance; generally speaking, the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate and the more carbs you can eat while still dropping fat. This is also why it’s so important to focus on fat loss—not weight loss.

While most people know that eating more fruits and vegetables is important for health and weight management, new research suggests that some options—including blueberries—may be superior to others when it comes to fighting flab.

In a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, a research team from Harvard examined the association of the consumption of specific fruits on weight gain among over 130,000 Americans over the course of 24 years. They found that total fruit consumption was inversely associated with weight gain, and each additional daily serving of fruit was associated with half-pound loss. What was especially interesting is that berries were associated with 2-fold greater weight loss.

There’s still more exciting news to share. Researchers have also found that the polyphenols in blueberries can improve gut health. A number of studies have shown that consumption of blueberries increases the amount of healthy gut bacteria, which promote overall health, support immune system function, promote a healthy inflammatory response, and much more.

Clearly, while tiny, this darkly colored fruit packs a powerful health punch!