Berries on the Brain

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When we put blueberries and cranberries into our Zing Bars, we knew we were choosing very nutritious fruits that are sky high in flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant-based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties, which mean they reduce inflammation, promote healthy arteries, and help fight aging by preventing and repairing cellular damage. Flavonoids may also protect against some cancers.

A recent study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported in Annals of Neurology got us even more excited about berries.

There have been previous studies showing that eating flavonoids could improve brain functions. However, these studies were either in animals or in very small human studies.

In this new study, the researchers gathered data from the Nurses Health Study, which has collected information on 121,700 female registered nurses since 1976. 16,010 of these nurses had their cognitive function assessed between 1995 and 2001 at two-yearly intervals. All of the 16,010 were at least 70 years old and in the present study, the women’s average age was 74.

  • The study found that the elderly females whose berry consumption was higher had an average 2.5 year slower cognitive decline, compared to their counterparts whose berry intake was low.
  • In fact, from the study, it seems that eating half a cup or more of blueberries or a cup or more of strawberries each week may be all you need for those memory benefits. And all berries are high in flavonoids so eat the ones you enjoy.

Wow – that’s a lot of bang for your buck for an easy and delicious behavior change.

So here are some ways to get more berries into your diet:

  • Buy frozen berries for when fresh are not available.
  • Put frozen berries in kids’ school lunches in the morning and they defrost by lunch time.
  • Throw frozen or fresh berries into a morning smoothie.
  • Add berries to salads – fresh or dried berries will do the trick.
  • Top your hot or cold cereal with berries.
  • Make a berry parfait – a layer of plain yogurt, a layer of berries and a layer or puffed rice. It’s a creamy, crunchy, high nutrition dessert.
  • Put some dried berries into your trail mix
  • Eat an Almond Blueberry or Cashew Cranberry Orange Zing Bar for your afternoon snack

If you don’t like the taste of berries, you can always enjoy the benefits by pureeing the berries into a fruit soup or fruit smoothie with other fruits that you enjoy.

I’d love to hear about any other ideas for getting more berries into your diet.

My personal favorite is devouring handfuls as I pick berries at a local U Pick with the kids. We go home with full bellies, crates of berries, and some great summer memories.


Devore EE et al. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol. 2012. Apr 26. doi: 10.1002/ana.23594