One Fruit dietitians want you to eat for a sharper mind

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Although there are many foods that can support brain health, nutrition experts agree that blueberries rank high.

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If you regularly forget where you put your keys or why you entered a room, it’s time to start thinking about boosting your nutrition to help your brain power up.

Research on the links between brain function and nutrition is exploding — and it turns out your diet has an effect on cognition, memory, and your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

We asked dietitians which fruit you should eat more often for neuroprotection. Their opinions are grounded in evidence-based research on the role of diet and brain health.

Why blueberries are good for your brain

1. They are rich in antioxidants

“A daily handful (or more) of blueberries is ideal for keeping the brain healthy and young,” says Cheryl Mussatto, RDN and author of The nourished brain. “It’s a strategy to prevent or possibly reverse age-related cognitive deficits.”

Blueberries contain antioxidants called flavonoids that are largely responsible for the brain health benefits seen in research. A June 2021 systematic review in the ​International Journal of Molecular Sciencesfound that compounds in berries are linked to reduced cognitive decline and memory improvements. It is important to note that the majority of studies in the review tested with blueberries, blueberry powder or blueberry juice.

“Blueberries provide anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant associated with anti-inflammatory properties, explains a dietitian. Lisa Andrews, Dt.P.. “As part of the MIND diet, blueberries are a great snack for brain health.”

Mussato agrees, “Thanks to the polyphenolic compounds present in this sweet berry, oxidative stress and inflammation are reduced, helping to destroy free radicals that can damage brain cells.”

And we can thank the anthocyanins in blueberries for the beneficial health effects of the fruit, not only on cognition and neuroprotection, but also for reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as for maintaining the weight, according to a March 2020 review in ​Advances in nutrition.

2. They are linked to a lower risk of neurodegenerative diseases

The MIND diet stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As you can see, it is a mixture of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. That’s all acronyms for now.

The MIND diet burst onto the diet scene less than 10 years ago and a February 2015 study in Alzheimer’s and dementia found that sticking strictly to it was associated with a 53% reduction in the risk of dementia. Get excited, because even following the diet moderately was linked to a 35% reduced risk. These are good numbers.

“Blueberries are a great snack for brain health,” says registered dietitian Christina Iaboni, Dt.P.. “Both the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet have been shown to have brain-protective benefits, and blueberries are part of both diets. The MIND diet specifically suggests eating berries two or more times per week.”

3. They are linked to a better mood

Blueberries of all types have also been studied for their effects on mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Freeze-dried blueberry powder has been used to study mood symptoms in children and young adults. Researchers observed that blueberries improved symptoms of depression in both groups, but there was no change in anxiety, according to a February 2017 report in Nutrients.

Similar results came out of a March 2020 study in the British Journal of Nutritionwhere 12-17 year olds were given wild blueberry powder and reported fewer depressive symptoms after just 4 weeks.

And, a review that looked at the effects of berry polyphenols on cognitive function found that various forms of blueberry were linked to improved cognitive function in older adults, according to a 2022 review in ​Scientific reports​.

Point

Although blueberries have promising effects on mood disorders, their consumption does not replace taking medication. If you are taking medication for depression, anxiety, or another condition, do not stop your medication without first talking to your doctor.

How many blueberries should you eat?

First of all, you don’t have to eat blueberries every day. It is very beneficial to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, as the products are rich in powerful antioxidants.

But if you want to add more berries to your diet, Mussato says a handful of blueberries will do the trick for a healthy brain.

This matches exactly what research shows: March 2020 research in Advances in nutrition found that just 1/3 cup of blueberries a day – fresh or frozen – confers health benefits. So you can combine this serving and have a cup of blueberries several times a week and still enjoy the health benefits.

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