Inflammation is the body’s normal response to harmful invaders, and it usually helps us fight off infection and disease. The trouble comes when inflammation becomes chronic, and our immune systems start to attack healthy cells. In fact, chronic inflammation has been linked to a slew of health problems like weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, and more seriously, conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And while many of us know that what we eat can drastically lower inflammation in the body, new research suggests that pairing certain foods together can actually amplify their anti-inflammatory powers — namely, blueberries and dairy.
A Milk Protein That Boosts Antioxidant Absorption
Blueberries have long been touted as an anti-inflammatory superfood because they contain plant compounds called anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals in the body. But even though anthocyanins are found in abundance in blueberries, only small amounts can be absorbed by the body during digestion. Previous research has shown that consuming certain foods may improve our ability to absorb anthocyanins in simulated digestion experiments. But now, a team of researchers set out to determine how milk proteins could affect anthocyanin absorption in a living organism.
For the new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers fed rats blueberry anthocyanin extracts. One group was given an extract containing a-casein, a type of milk protein. According to their findings, anthocyanin concentrations in the blood were 1.5 to 10.1 times higher in the group who ate the extract with a-casein in it.
The researchers were able to determine that this is because the amino acids allowed the a-casein to encapsulate and protect the anthocyanin molecules during digestion. This improved their stability in the intestines and allowed them to more easily enter the bloodstream. Pretty interesting!
We think this is the best news now that we’re in peak blueberry season. A-casein is found in most dairy products like plain cow’s milk, cream, cheese, butter, yogurt, and more. That means you can easily get creative and pair blueberries with your favorite dairy foods! So the next time you’re baking up some blueberry muffins, go ahead and enjoy with a tall glass of milk, some yogurt, or even — dare we say — a scoop of ice cream. Yum!