When we talk about antioxidants, none of the commonly consumed fruits and vegetables can rival with blueberries. This is due to their abundance of compounds called flavonoids, which are important components of many brain foods. (Check my previous post on dark chocolate.) We all know that antioxidants can protect our body against free radicals, that can contribute to aging and cause diseases like cancer. In addition, it turns out they can also improve our memory and help maintain brain function.
The blue color is more than just aesthetics
The most abundant flavonoids in blueberries are anthocyanins. These are the pigments that give the red, purple and blue colors of fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins cross the blood brain barrier, and as a result they enhance signaling in parts of the brain that handle memory. (1) Astonishingly, these useful compounds accumulate in the brain’s hippocampus. According to a study, anthocyanins can help improve:
- executive function tasks
- learning (2)
In addition to the brain boosting effects, anthocyanin-rich substances can treat several conditions including:
- high blood pressure
- diabetic retinopathy
- urinary tract infections
As I have already mentioned when I wrote about acai berry, there are several evidence based studies on the invaluable brain health benefits of berries. Similarly, there are also a lot of researches that examine the effects of blueberries on memory function in humans. Based on a study, conducted in 2010, 12 weeks of blueberry supplementation resulted in:
- improved mood
- improved memory function
- reduced fasting blood sugar (3)
The outcome of an other relevant research also looks promising. During a six year long study 16,010 adults were examined based on their blueberry and strawberry consumption. In conclusion, the researchers suggest that these fruits can slow down cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years. (4) If all that wasn’t enough, another review, made in 2015, also shows that berries can protect the brain against cognitive loss. (5)
Frozen vs fresh
Fresh blueberries are delicious, and probably most people will prefer the taste of them, but you shouldn’t be afraid to buy frozen ones as well. In most cases they are much cheaper, and you can also find them in more shops, year-round. However, they might not be as healthy as the fresh ones, you say?
Actually, studies that were conducted at the South Dakota State University suggest the exact opposite. The anthocyanins are in the skin of the berry. When we freeze them, the tiny ice crystals disrupt the structure of the cells, and as a result our system can more easily access these antioxidants contained within the skin. (6) In addition, commercially packaged blueberries are frozen very soon after they have been picked, so that they can maintain the nutritional value of the fresh ones.
You can use frozen blueberries in many of the same recipes as the fresh ones. In case you need some ideas how you can add them to healthy meals, check these recipes.
If you don’t like blueberries
Due to the beneficial compounds content of other berries, they will all be perfect choices to enhance your mental performance. If you want some variety you can also choose:
If you don’t like the taste off blueberries or berries at all, firstly you should try to add them to a smoothie. If that doesn’t work either, you should opt for other food choices that can provide you with anthocyanins. Here are a couple of options other than berries that can do the work:
- red cabbage
- red radish
- black plums
- red onions
- red beets
- red wines
- red apples
- red beans
- red or purple grapes
As I’ve mentioned, they are pigments so pay attention to the red, purple, blue or black colors.