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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Berries for Brain and Heart Health

Are there foods that “feed” the brain?  Well, berries have been found to promote brain health as well as heart health.  Which berries and what health effects do they have?
Our doorbell rang at 9 this morning.  Our neighbor was standing there with 2 quarts of strawberries he had just purchased at the Farmer’s Market.  Strawberries are not only loaded with many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, there are also one of the berries known to promote healthy brains.

Why are berries so healthy?

Berries are rich in antioxidants – in fact they have found that berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits.    Antioxidants aren’t vitamins or minerals but plant chemicals that protect the plant and have been found to have many health benefits when we eat these plants.   The differing color of the berries means they provide different antioxidants.  Berries that are red, blue or purple provide anthocyanin,  a strong antioxidant.  It is associated with promoting memory.  

Berries provide flavonoids – a plant chemical that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Scientists haven’t yet figured out why berries are so good for our brains but they believe these antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds in berries are indeed good for brain health.

What do berries do for brain health?
  • Memory – I tell the students in my class to add some fruit, especially berries to their diet, for good memory.  Studies have found that young and old benefit from adding blueberries.  Blueberries improve memory, attention to tasks, and even increased blood flow to our brains.  (Environmental Nutrition, June 2017) 
  • Slow Down Brain Aging - as we age, our brains decline in function, but berries have been found to slow down this aging process.
  • Boost Your Mood – the flavonoids in berries have even been found to boost your mood.  Now who wouldn’t have a boost in their mood as they enjoy their first strawberry shortcake this summer season?
Berries and Heart Health6 healthiest berries suggests we sprinkle some blueberries on our yogurt and add some strawberries to our smoothie for heart health. Berries are linked to a lower risk of heart attacks. 

Some berries to try for brain and heart health: 

Blueberries – a super food.  Promotes good memory and heart health.  Good source of vitamin C and fiber. Enjoy fresh or buy frozen to add to smoothies or pancakes.
Strawberries – Loaded with vitamin C, good source of folate, and may prevent the build up of plaque in our arteries. 
Raspberries – good source of fiber.  A half cup of raspberries provides 4 grams of fiber.  Also provides vitamin C and the mineral, manganese.  Another berry that promotes heart health.
Blackberries – another berry rich in antioxidants to promote heart health.  Try a blackberry jam on a whole grain English Muffin.  

As berry season comes to your area, enjoy some fresh berries this season.  Add some fresh or frozen berries to a smoothie or add berries to your yogurt.  But eat them regularly to obtain the most benefit.

Blueberry Oat Smoothie  (adapted from)  Makes 2 Servings
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups frozen blueberries
1 yogurt 5.3 ounces, non-fat blueberry Greek yogurt
1 banana
½ cup coconut water
2 T. honey – buy some locally grown honey
  1. In a blender, process oats for 30 seconds.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and puree until blended.
Nutrition facts 340 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat and 0 mg of cholesterol, 10 mg protein, 75 g carbohydrates, 8 grams fiber,  only 50 mg sodium, 410 mg potassium, 95 mg calcium and 17 mg vitamin C.

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