Blueberries and other berries are superstars in the nutrition world because of their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants are natural chemicals that combat the effects of environmental contaminants that can damage your cells. Antioxidant-rich foods are linked to helping prevent cancer and aging.
Studies have shown that aging rats fed antioxidant-rich blueberry, strawberry or spinach extracts showed improvement in short-term memory. In human years, the 19-month-old rats were 65 to 70 years old.
For example, the rats had to walk along a narrow rod. Usually aging rats can manoeuvre the narrow path for five seconds. After they had blueberry extract, they could stay on board for 11 seconds.
British researchers took this research a step further. After conducting studies with rats in mazes, they reported that aging rats fed blueberries had better memory function. They didn’t get lost as easily.
The researchers concluded that natural chemicals in blueberries, called flavonoids, may encourage aging nerves that carry signals to the brain to regenerate. They plan studies with people to determine if there could be a link between eating more blueberries and slowing the onset of dementia or possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Blueberries are available in fresh, frozen and dried forms to enjoy throughout the year. Sprinkle some on your cereal or have a berry smoothie. Blueberries have just 40 calories per half-cup, plus they provide fibre, vitamin C and potassium.
Along with a healthy diet, you should add regular physical activity and challenging mental activities, such as dancing or learning new hobbies, to keep your mind and body functioning well, too.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State
University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.