When talking about superfoods, it’s impossible to overlook or understate the role of blueberries. These little dark berries are excellent for providing antioxidants that protect the nervous system, promote brain health, and perhaps even improve memory. Blueberries contain abundant amounts of phytonutrients including the anthocyanins — the antioxidant that gives them their color — but also hydroxycinnamic acids, hydroxybenzoic acids, and flavonols, all of which contribute to lowering inflammation, fighting off potential cancer, improve our heart health, and more.

It’s well known that blueberries are great for our cardiovascular health by raising good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol, but that’s not all. They’re great for practically every system in our body from helping muscles recover after a hard workout to helping maintain the health of our digestive tract. Blueberries even contribute to our eye health by protecting the retina from oxidative stress and damage from sunlight.

Blueberries, like many other berries, make a perfect dessert as an alternative to sweets made with refined sugar. They are low on the glycemic index, which means you don’t get the same dramatic spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that you would by eating a candy bar. And a cup of blueberries is only 84 calories, so they’re definitely a guilt-free snack that you can eat to your heart’s content. To get more blueberries (and other fruit) into your diet, add them to breakfast cereals, oatmeal or parfaits, toss some into shakes and smoothies, eat them by the handful as a snack and as dessert with a little sprinkling of cocoa powder or cinnamon on top. And of course, try out these recipes below.

It's important to get organic blueberries. Along with other thin-skinned fruits, blueberries can absorb some of the pesticides or herbicides used on them. Plus, research has shown that organic blueberries contain more antioxidants than blueberries grown with chemicals. Select berries that are bright, firm, and have a uniform color. You can also get frozen blueberries and get the same nutritional benefits. Research has shown that freezing them does not destroy the all-important antioxidants they contain.

banana blueberry bread Banana blueberry bread is one of the healthiest and tastiest recipes you'll find for banana bread. (Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch)

Healthy Banana Blueberry Bread

Admittedly, it's a stretch to call a sweet bread "healthy" but we do promise you that this is likely the healthiest recipe you'll find for a banana bread that still tastes as decadent as something with sugar and dairy in it. Yet this recipe calls for zero refined sugar, zero dairy, and zero oils. Plus it can easily be made gluten-free by using a cup-for-cup style gluten-free flour blend. About as guilt-free as you'll find for this treat!

Flax Pancakes and Blueberry Compote

For something a little more "stick to your ribs" for breakfast, try these pancakes. Flax seed is another super-charged ingredient that boasts health benefits, so combined with blueberries, you're looking at a breakfast of champions. Well, champions who have a sweet tooth anyway.

blueberry muffins Hit the farmers market on Saturday for fresh blueberries to make Sunday morning blueberry muffins. (Photo: Claire Yuki/flickr)

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

Lemon and blueberries go together like peanut butter and jelly -- each is great on its own but they're both more complete with the other. And these muffins prove it with a little lemon zest added into the batter. I think the word you're looking for is, "Mmmmmmmmmmmmm."

Blueberry Almond Quinoa

For a breakfast that is simple and super healthy, we recommend this beautiful creation. Featuring the best ingredients you could want to start your day with -- from healthy fats in almonds to the high protein of quinoa -- this recipe is delicious as is but is also customizable. Add in more spices, different nuts, and a variety of berries or fruits to make this different each day.

Blueberry Smoothie

A smoothie is great for any meal at any time of the day. You just can't seem to go wrong with a cold, delicious and healthy meal in a glass. This smoothie recipe calls for only 5 ingredients and can be whipped up in just a couple minutes for a quick meal as you're headed out the door.

blueberry-smoothie This blueberry smoothie has chia seeds and almond butter. (Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch)

Blueberry Oatmeal Protein Smoothie

If you want a smoothie that packs a little more protein, try this recipe. It includes nutrient-dense ingredients such as chia seeds, almond butter, protein powder and of course the star of the show, blueberries.

Superfood Parfait

Another great option for any time of day is a parfait. Yogurt, granola, blueberry compote, a little trail mix and some ground flax seeds make this recipe simple to make but rich with nutrients, antioxidants and healthy fats that will keep you feeling full for hours.

Blueberry Bread Pudding

When it comes to dessert, you can't go wrong with blueberries. This blueberry bread pudding is an excellent option, and you likely already have pretty much everything you need to make it sitting in your cupboards and refrigerator right now.

Summer Fruit Tartlets with Lemon Olive Oil Crust

For something a little on the fancier side, try these tarts. They're the perfect show-off dish for the dessert table at a party -- and yet they're incredibly easy to put together. And if you don't want to make your own crust, you could even get away with using a frozen crust to cut the prep time down to just a few minutes. But really, the lemon olive oil crust is sooooo worth the time that goes into making it.

blueberry tart

Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

9 recipes for blueberries that put this superfood at center stage
We all know blueberries are healthy. But you may be surprised at just how healthy they actually are!