Feeling forgetful? Chow down a fruit medley of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, boysenberries, cranberries, raspberries and grapes to keep your brain power fruitful.
While studies have revealed differences in the extent to which berries benefit people, a review of the literature shows that the overall benefits are significant, especially when it comes to age-related memory degradation.
Authors Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Ph.D., and Marshall Miller, both of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, reviewed the evidence from cellular, human and animal studies about the impact of berry fruits on the brain.
The positive effects of eating berries go beyond their high levels of antioxidants, a compound that protects cells from damage.
Berries also help keep the brain healthy by altering brain cell communication in a way that prevents inflammation in the brain. Otherwise, inflammation could damage neurons over time.
The better neuron communication promoted by eating berries may also help improve people’s motor control and cognition.
Grapes and blueberries in particular help improve the thinking processes of older adults with mild cognitive impairment, and some studies offer promising evidence that consuming berries can help stave off dementia.
Furthermore, mulberries were found in one study to prevent oxidation stress in laboratory cells infected with Parkinson’s disease.
Other human studies showed increases in participants’ antioxidant levels after eating cranberries, blueberries and strawberries. Some of these same studies showed that eating blueberries or strawberries with a high fat meal decreased the inflammation that others eating the high fat meal without berries experienced.
“This is news we’ve been hearing for a while about how much health benefits berries have,” said Eve Pearson, a licensed and registered dietitian who was not associated with this research review.
“One great piece of advice depending on where you live is you can buy them frozen,” Pearson said. “If you’re in an area where they’re not in season, there’s always the frozen, unsweetened berries (mixed or individual) that are easy to add to oatmeal, smoothies, and parfaits”
Of course, all fruits contain beneficial nutrients and should be part of any balanced diet, but this study happened to focus primarily on the benefits shared by berries in particular.
Shukitt-Hale and Miller said more research needs to be done to determine if the benefits from berries come from specific chemicals found in all berries or whether each berries has its own special beneficial concoction that has similar effects on the brain.
They said additional research could also help determine the best amount of berries to eat, how often to eat them, and how long their protective benefits last.
The article appears online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.