Just after climbing the stairs, you walk into a room and scour the walls with your eyes. You pause and think, “what did I come in here for?” It happens to all of us and is a subtle reminder of our declining brain function as we age. Many may wonder how to prevent the annoyance of daily forgetfulness, in addition to improving our overall brain health. Beyond maintaining good health in general, some will look to sudoku puzzles, memory training apps, and interesting supplements for answers. However, the simple pleasures of everyday fruit are often overlooked when it comes to brain function!
Besides their sweet taste, fruits are packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants work to neutralize toxic free radicals that are a byproduct of the body’s daily chemical reactions necessary to sustain life. Researchers postulate that free radicals may be the biochemical cause of various diseases, including strokes and Alzheimer’s. Overconsumption of antioxidants may be harmful as well, but it would be near impossible to consume too many from just fruits, vegetables, and spices alone. While there is no official recommendation for the number of antioxidants to eat daily, most Americans generally fall short. Wild blueberries can help us close the gap though, as one cup may have more antioxidants than any other berry, depending on the species.
Does this make blueberries the best berry though? In addition to a high antioxidant content, numerous studies have shown various health benefits, specifically regarding cognition. An article published in the journal, Annals of Neurology, showed that regular dietary intake of blueberries reduced cognitive decline, even after controlling for several confounding variables.
Furthermore, another study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that wild blueberry consumption improved verbal memory, word recognition, and response inhibition in children after 1 and 3 hours. The study illustrated a dose-dependent effect, meaning that the more blueberries the children consumed, the better they performed on the brain cognition tests.
Older adults can indulge in the benefits from blueberries too, as an article from the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry demonstrated cognitive benefits from daily blueberry consumption, in addition to improving mood and blood sugar levels as well. These benefits are likely from the specific anthocyanin components in blueberries, which work to reduce inflammation in the brain and body.
So, which berry is the best for brain health? Probably whichever berry you would eat the most of, since most edible berries have a variety of health benefits and a high antioxidant quantity. Regardless, there is copious, high quality scientific evidence on the benefits of blueberries, making them a fridge essential for anyone mindful of their brain health.
- Devore, Elizabeth E et al. “Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline.” Annals of neurology vol. 72,1 (2012): 135-43. doi:10.1002/ana.23594
- Krikorian, Robert et al. “Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry vol. 58,7 (2010): 3996-4000. doi:10.1021/jf9029332
- Whyte, Adrian R et al. “Cognitive effects following acute wild blueberry supplementation in 7- to 10-year-old children.” European journal of nutrition vol. 55,6 (2016): 2151-62. doi:10.1007/s00394-015-1029-4