June 7/New York/International Society of Sports Nutrition -- Blueberries are nutritional powerhouses -- high in fiber, vitamin C, and other antioxidants, and low in calories. However, a new study published in theJournal of the International Society of Sports Nutritionsuggests these tasty berries may also help shorten the body’s recovery time after physical exertion.

Researchers gave 10 female participants blueberry-based smoothies before, during, and for two days after exercise strength tests, along with blood tests to monitor recovery. Specifically, they measured and monitored levels of oxidative stress, antioxidant activity, and inflammation.

The same study was then repeated several weeks later using smoothies that did not contain blueberries.

The results? Although the two types of smoothies contained similar total antioxidant levels, people who drank the blueberry smoothies showed increased antioxidant activity and fewer free radicals in their blood.

Thus, consumption of the blueberry-containing smoothie was associated with significantly improved recovery rates, at least in the short term. Participants recovered from exertion about three times more quickly in the first 24 hours when they consumed blueberries. Total recovery after 48 hours was the same with and without blueberry consumption.

Still, lead researcher Dr. Steve Stannard believes the findings of the study could help Olympians and other athletes recover from exercise and return to peak performance more quickly. He also noted, “For me the attraction of this study is that we’re using a real food. It’s not a pill or a supplement, it’s fruit…available at any shop.”

 From the June 8, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily News