Did you know that you can enhance brain function with a fruit such as blueberries? This native North American fruit contains powerful antioxidants (i. e. essential anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins) that can improve brain function.
Research in animals has demonstrated that regular consumption of small amounts of blueberries can slow down impairments in memory, learning and motor coordination (particularly balance) that often occur with aging. Moreover, blueberries provide a wide range of other health benefits for the body like lowering your cholesterol levels.
Blueberry Smoothie improves brain function
The US Department of Agriculture tested 24 different varieties of fresh fruits, 23 vegetables, 16 herbs and spices and found that blueberries had the highest total antioxidant capacity per serving. As many people know today, antioxidants are important to your diet to combat free radicals. During normal cell metabolism, molecules are broken down into harmful components known as free radicals that may contribute to cancerous states and age-related diseases if not removed.
It is now believed that diets high in phyto-nutrient antioxidants can actually reverse at least in part certain age related neural dysfunction. Animal studies have demonstrated higher levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in rats who have been fed blueberry extract. Dopamine is important for controlled motor movements, efficient memory, attention and problem-solving function. Furthermore, it is thought that blueberry antioxidants may increase neuronal cell membrane fluidity and decrease inflammatory components which also slows down the aging process.
With age, your body slowing down
Perhaps you have heard that as you age your brain and body slow down. Well to some extent this can be true but it is dependent on how well you take care of yourself and diet and exercise are major components. Do you eat vegetables and fruits everyday? Now is the time to consider doing so if you haven’t already.
Neurobiology of Aging Research
Research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging (Rachel Galli and colleagues, 2005). found a mechanism by which blueberries may reverse brain aging. They took a look at a particular heat-shock protein in response to blueberry extract in rats against a control. Heat shock proteins are important for fighting against free-radicals and inflammation-inducing molecules. As we age, we produce less and less of these heat-shock proteins leaving us unprotected. It turns out that old rats who had taken blueberry extract were able to produce a strong heat-shock protein response when challenged with an inflammatory substance. Old rats who weren’t fed blueberry extract (controls) had a weak heat-shock protein response. It appears that blueberry extract was able to reverse the aging process in old rats.
Moreover, another study by researchers at the University of Barcelona found that the phyto-nutrient molecules found in blueberries were able to pass the blood-brain-barrier. It is necessary for nutrients you take in to be able to get into the brain otherwise there’s no way for them to work. So, they needed to demonstrate that this is possible. They found blueberry specific agents in the rat’s cerebellum, cortex, hippocampus and striatum and these are areas responsible for memory, learning, cognition, motor control and balance. Wonderful!
Fresh Blueberries are the Best for Smoothies
Whether you use fresh blueberries, canned, frozen or extract form, all have been shown to contain the essential antioxidants. A fruit smoothie is a good way to get your blueberries in liquid form and you can add a number of other ingredients as well such as spinach, kale, bananas, dates, chia seeds, protein powders, coconut milk/oil, almond milk and the list goes on. A blueberry smoothie makes it easy for you to maintain brain health for life in terms of memory, learning, cognition and motor function.
How to Make The Best Blueberry Smoothie for One
- one cup of blueberries
- 1 tbsp. of chia seeds
- 1 tbsp. raw virgin coconut oil
- half of a medium sized banana
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, vanilla flavored
- 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder (optional)
- 5 ice cubes (optional)
- preparation time about 10 minutes or less