In my last post How To (Beet) Cognitive Decline, I focused on the benefits of beets to improve athletic and brain performance. I also touched on the benefits of other superfoods, including berries. In this article let’s focus on berries and specifically blueberries for healthy aging.
Adding blueberries to your diet has been shown to:
- Slow down your body’s aging,
- Improve the functioning of your brain,
- Lower your blood pressure to help protect you against strokes,
- Reduce DNA damage, which may help protect against aging and cancer,
- Protect you from diabetes,
- Reduce muscle damage after strenuous exercise, and
- Prevent urinary tract infections.
In this article, I’ll present the research behind some of these claims, give you some simple ways you can add blueberries to your diet every day, and suggest some actions you can take today and every day.
Blueberries are one of the world’s best-tasting foods and may also be one of the most protective. They are packed with anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant, that give them their rich blue color. They are also low in calories.
Blueberries’ potent antioxidant effects are their most outstanding property. Oxidation is one of the main sources of cellular damage. Antioxidants such as anthocyanins, protect our cells from oxidative stress, which has been linked to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke and other inflammatory conditions.
Blueberries also increase nitric oxide levels in the blood, resulting in dilation of blood vessels. This results in lowering of blood pressure.
By their ability to reach regions of the brain involved in learning and memory, blueberries are able to enhance brain function and slow brain aging.
Here are a few studies that detail these results:
- Studies have found that blueberries slow down or lessen brain aging. Specifically, a Harvard long-term study conducted on 16,000 nurses showed that the consumption of blueberries and strawberries delayed cognitive decline for up to 2.5 years. Cognitive decline is typically assessed by measuring the degree that a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life.
- A study examined the effects of blueberry consumption on blood pressure. Healthy men were given blueberries for 8 weeks and compared with men given a placebo. Patients in the group taking blueberries exhibited a significant decrease in blood pressure and an improvement of arterial stiffness compared to the placebo group. Nitric oxide levels were significantly higher in the blueberry group, relaxing and expanding blood vessels, which facilitates blood passage through them and lowering blood pressure.
- The US Department of Aging’s Center for Aging at Tufts University studied more than 40 vegetables and fruits, measuring their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). ORAC is a lab test that measures the “total antioxidant capacity” (TAC) of a food. Of all the foods studied, blueberries scored the highest – even above the vegetables. In fact, blueberries had 5 times the ORAC of most other fruits and vegetables.
Considering all of these benefits, blueberries certainly qualify as a “superfood.”
How much blueberries should you strive to eat per day?
Studies showed reduction of risk of heart disease and brain aging with from 1 to 2 cups per day.
There are many healthy ways to eat fresh and frozen blueberries (e.g. salads, smoothies, oatmeal). Just avoid fruit-on-the-bottom yoghurt due to the high sugar content.
Adding blueberries to your daily meals every day will contribute to your healthy aging. But don’t stop there! Add more whole-food plant-based superfoods to your diet, including other fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, lentils), and you will increase even more your chances of staying healthy as you age.
To make sure you’re getting the nutrition you need for healthy aging, contact me for a Free 50-minute healthy aging nutrition assessment with me today!
Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, The Alzheimer’s Solution, Harper One, 2017
Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina, Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet, 2000.
Nitric Oxide 2011 Jan 1: 24(1); 34-42.
Elizabeth E. Devore, Jae Hee Kang, Monique M. B. Breteler, Francine Grodstein. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ana.23594