Heart disease and cognitive decline, the unnatural loss of memory and ability to think clearly as we age, are two major health problems in our society. Poor diet and lifestyle choices can take a toll if you subject your body to years of abuse from sugar, hydrogenated fats, pollution and lack of physical activity. Eventually, the heart, brain and other organs succumb to the continual assault resulting in illness, memory loss, and chronic disease.
Berries are considered a “superfood” because they pack an incredible amount of nutrition into a small package. They are loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and flavonoids. There are an endless list of berries but some of the more popular include blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Researchers have postulated for years that berry fruits provide support for an aging brain, and new research is beginning to show the mechanisms of how these tasty little superfoods offer us protection.
A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that berry fruits contain very high levels of antioxidants that protect the delicate brain from the damaging oxidative effects of free radicals (unstable electrons that cause cellular damage). The brain is among the most metabolically active organs in the body and generates large quantities of free radicals as a result. Eating berries on a daily basis can help deliver a critical supply antioxidants to the brain to minimize cellular damage from free radicals and maintain healthy brain cells.
The researchers also found that berry fruits help stop inflammation that causes nerve damage. This results in improvements to both motor control and levels of cognition, memory and thought.
Another study recently published in the Annals of Neurology suggests that cognitive aging could be delayed by up to 2.5 years in elderly individuals who consume greater amounts of flavonoid-rich berries.
Researchers have also found that flavonoids from the berries promote autophagy, the brain’s natural housekeeping mechanism that removes the accumulation of protein clumps called amyloid. Amyloid that is not cleared from the brain can cause brain cell death and lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Finally, another study found that berry consumption can improve heart health. Berries contain flavonoids called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been shown to help dilate arteries, counter the buildup of plaque and provide other cardiovascular benefits. The researchers in this study found women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had significantly fewer heart attacks (32 percent less) compared to women who only ate berries once a month or less.
Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of anthocyanins that have shown cardiovascular benefits in past research studies.
What Else We Have to Say: Berries are available all year round and can also be purchased frozen. Try to eat one serving of berries everyday!