By: Traci Haselton
Good news for berry lovers! New research suggests that consuming a handful of berries a week will delay age-related memory loss for up to 2 1/2 years. The study, conducted by Elizabeth Devore, Sc.D and her team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has yielded results that definitively identify berries, such as blueberries and strawberries, as a delicious preventative measure to be taken against declining cognitive function.
The study tracked the berry-consumption habits of over 16,000 women from 1980-1995, administering a questionnaire every four years. From 1995-2001, cognitive function was tested every two years with a phone interview, during which the participant would be asked to recall details of a paragraph or a list of numbers or words that had been read to them. After adjusting for the positive health effects of income level and frequency of exercise, the results were clear. Women who had consumed a small amount of berries each week, a half a cup of blueberries or one cup of strawberries, experienced a slower rate of mental decline, with the delay of cognitive decline averaging out to approximately two and a half years. Women who did not consume the small amount of berries didn’t see the same benefits.
These extraordinary findings have the researchers citing the high levels of flavonoids present in berries as being primarily responsible for delay in memory loss.
More Reasons to Consume All Types of Berries
This is not the first time berries have been credited with serious health benefits; another study done earlier this year at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University revealed the numerous ways that berries improve and protect neurological health, including anti-inflammatory properties that mitigate degeneration of the human brain and antioxidants, which fight the brain cell-damaging free radicals. In fact, berries are some of the most antioxidant rich foods there are. While more testing and observation are still needed to pinpoint the exact processes at work, the overwhelming consensus is clear: berries are brain food.
The average strawberry enthusiast, however, may face a couple obstacles in their quest for tasty brain-boosting berries. Strawberries and blueberries, the two berries featured in the study, are consistently found to carry some of the highest levels of pesticide residue of all produce, and organic berries may cost a little more What is a cash-strapped health seeker to do?
As it turns out, there are a number of options that can be used in conjunction with one another to insure the inclusion of berry-derived flavonoids and antioxidants in our diets. The first option is to simply grow your own. Strawberries can be purchased for a few dollars a plant and are relatively low maintenance, with each plant able to produce up to one to two quarts of berries. When they are in season, strawberries can be purchased fresh from the farm, and many farming operations feature a “pick your own” special rate.
Finally, berries do not need to be consumed fresh in order to reap the myriad health benefits, and can be purchased frozen or preserved in the home freezer, to be enjoyed at a later time. Frozen berries tend to be less expensive and, barring the occurrence of freezer burn, will keep up to a year.
The bottom line is that whether they are homegrown, picked up at the farmers market or from the grocery freezer section, berries can be affordable, accessible, delicious and, best of all, benefit the brain. Don’t wait to experience the health benefits of strawberries or any other berry today.