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Help Yourself To A Brainful Of Blueberries This Summer

With their slightly tart, simply sweet flavor and beckoning blue color, it’s no secret that blueberries are great for your mouth. But did you know they’re also equally good for your brain?

Evidence suggests that eating a diet containing a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and seafood during adulthood is associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.1-5

And, a growing body of scientific evidence is examining how blueberries can be part of eating patterns to support brain health, especially as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.6-9 June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month, so let’s look at how blueberries can play a role in building healthful habits for life.

Fast Facts for Blueberry Nutrition

In one cup of blueberries, a recommended serving size, you’ll get essential nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and phytonutrients called polyphenols. This group includes anthocyanins, which gives blueberries their signature color. Plus, one serving of blueberries provides 3.6 grams of dietary fiber. Both fresh and frozen options are available year-round for hassle-free snacking.

As a dietitian, I love to share information about nutrition, but building healthy habits takes more than facts alone. Here are three simple strategies you can try this summer as fresh blueberries are coming into peak ripeness!

  1. Treasure the Taste

When was the last time you asked yourself, “What is it that I like about this food?”

For example, I love fresh blueberries chilled, straight out of the refrigerator. It’s such a refreshing snack on a humid summer day! I also like their attractive color and the firm, yet bouncy texture as I bite into them and they release a burst of flavor.

By recognizing and naming the qualities of foods you enjoy most, you can increase your overall satisfaction with your food choices. When eating for better health is both a pleasurable and nourishing experience, your actions become more aligned with your goals. In turn, you’re more likely to continue with a habit that feels fun! This is key for sustainable habits that last a lifetime, including into your adult years when cognitive performance or brain health becomes a higher priority.

  1. Spread the Love (throughout the day)

The Produce for Better Health Foundation’s State of the Plate Report found that while vegetables outpace fruit in total consumption, they tend to make an appearance at lunch and dinner most often. On the other hand, fruit is eaten across all meal occasions, including snacks and desserts. This means you can grab a boost of blue any time of the day, and in any form! Fresh and frozen blueberries both count towards your total daily servings of fruit.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, try these no-brainers:

  • Adding frozen blueberries to pancake or waffle mix
  • Smash fresh or frozen blueberries with chia seeds and spread on a sandwich (PB&J style)
  • Add fresh blueberries to a leafy green- or grain-based salad
  • Swirl some smashed blueberries into yogurt, cottage cheese, or ice cream for a sweet snack or simple dessert

How many ways can you imagine adding fruit like blueberries to breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, or snacks?

  1. Maximize Mindfulness

Creating a mindful practice while eating may help you feel more present at meals and snacks. One place to start: fabulous flavor pairings. The contrast of different tastes, textures, and colors gives your mind something to notice or focus on. As you tune out distractions, you may notice an increase in enjoyment or satisfaction, something I find is a very underrated aspect of a healthy relationship with food.

Here are a few examples of flavor pairings that might help you create some mindful moments using blueberries as the base:

  • Peanut butter and vanilla extract
  • Mint and dark chocolate
  • Yogurt and maple syrup
  • Almonds and cinnamon

Use these combinations paired with blueberries in smoothies, as a topping for toast or waffles, or mixed into oatmeal. The possibilities are only limited by your taste preferences, so get as creative as you’d like!

Feast your mind on blueberries this summer – grab a boost of blue and your brain will thank you later!

You can read more about the current research on blueberries and their potential role in supporting brain health here, plus snag some no-brainer blueberry recipes for summer, at www.blueberry.org.

References
12020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Systematic Reviews of the Dietary Patterns, Foods and Nutrients, and Health Outcomes Subcommittee. (2021). https://nesr.usda.gov/2020-dietaryguidelines-advisory-committee-systematic-reviews/dietary-patterns-subcommittee/dietary-patternsneurocognitive-health.
2Ekstrand B, Scheers N, Rasmussen MK, Young JF, Ross AB, Landberg R. Brain foods – the role of diet in brain performance and health. Nutr Rev. 2020 Sep 29:nuaa091.
3Gehlich K. H., Beller J., Lange-Asschenfeldt B., Köcher W., Meinke M. C., Lademann J. (2019). Fruit and vegetable consumption is associated with improved mental and cognitive health in older adults from non-Western developing countries. Public Health Nutr. 22 689–696.
4Nurk E., Refsum H., Drevon C.A., Tell G.S., Nygaard H.A., Engedal K., and Smith A.D. 2010. Cognitive performance among the elderly in relation to the intake of plant foods. The Hordaland Health Study. Br. J. Nutr. 104(8): 1190–1201.
5Miller MG, Thangthaeng N, Poulose SM, Shukitt-Hale B. Role of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in maintaining cognitive health. Exp Gerontol. 2017 Aug;94:24-28. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2016.12.014. Epub 2016 Dec 21. PMID: 28011241.
6Travica N, D’Cunha NM, Naumovski N, Kent K, Mellor DD, Firth J, Georgousopoulou EN, Dean OM, Loughman A, Jacka F, Marx W. The effect of blueberry interventions on cognitive performance and mood: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Brain Behav Immun. 2020; 85:96-105.
7Bowtell JL, Aboo-Bakkar Z, Conway ME, Adlam AR, Fulford J. Enhanced task-related brain activation and resting perfusion in healthy older adults after chronic blueberry supplementation. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017; 42(7):773-779.
8Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, Kalt W, Vinqvist-Tymchuk MR, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem. 2010, 58:3996-4000.
9Wilhelmina Kalt, Aedin Cassidy, Luke R Howard, Robert Krikorian, April J Stull, Francois Tremblay, Raul Zamora-Ros, Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 11, Issue 2, March 2020, Pages 224–236.

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