Study: Regular consumption of blueberries can reverse cognitive decline among the elderly By Zoey Sky for Super Foods
Blueberries are full of beneficial antioxidants. According to a study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, eating wild blueberries regularly can help reverse cognitive decline among the elderly.
While conducting the study, researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) discovered that elderly Americans who were already suffering from “demonstrable cognitive issues” experienced incredible benefits from consuming blueberries each day.
In many cases, the brain health of the study participants reached the same levels as those with no known history of cognitive decline. This is important because there are no mainstream cures for dementia.
Blueberries are a popular “superfood,” with impressive antioxidant properties. The berries also contain different vitamins and minerals linked to brain health and reductions in heart disease and cancer risk.
A one-cup serving (about 148 grams) of blueberries provides 24 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, 36 percent of vitamin K, 25 percent of manganese and 14 percent of dietary fiber.
Cognitive function and blueberry consumption
For the study, researchers gathered data from 86 elderly adults between the ages of 65 and 80.
The volunteers all self-reported cognitive issues. Another 43 people in the same age range but without reported brain issues took part in the study as the control group.
After an initial screening to determine cognitive functioning at the start of the study, participants were split into two groups: One group added wild blueberry powder to their diets while the other added a placebo. (Related: Anthocyanins in fruits like blueberries can boost brain and heart health.)
Dr. Carol Cheatham, lead researcher and an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at UNC, said that they specifically used wild blueberries from Maine for the study because the phytochemicals they contain can fight skin cancer, pests and other elements in the harsh northeastern environment.
Blueberries can reverse cognitive decline
When people consume berries, the protective benefits of the fruits’ phytochemical content are transferred to humans. The study showed that the phytochemicals in wild blueberries can boost brain health.
For the study, the volunteers mixed blueberry powder into their food every day. Six months later, they were screened for cognitive health again.
The researchers discovered that the mental processing speed of participants who consumed the blueberries daily greatly recovered after the study period.
On average, their mental processing was restored to the point that they had the same processing speed as the control group who reported no cognitive decline.
Processing speed refers to the brain’s ability to store and recall information. The researchers explained that processing speed is key to all brain functions, and this improvement points to an “overall jump in brain health.”
The study was relatively small, but Cheatham believes that her team has found a natural and effective solution to the cognitive issues affecting millions of Americans.
Cheatham herself incorporates blueberries into her regular diet by mixing at least two cups of berries into a breakfast smoothie.
You can also boost your brain health by consuming blueberries every day. Even amounts much smaller than Cheatham’s daily intake can still be effective.
Boost your brain health with these tasty blueberry recipes
Try these amazing recipes featuring antioxidant-rich blueberries to boost your brain health.
Healthy blueberry and oatmeal muffins
This recipe pairs blueberries with fiber-rich oatmeal.
Ingredients for 12 servings:
- 1 1/5 Cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 Cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 Cup oats
- 1 Cup vanilla almond milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 Cup coconut oil
- 1/2 Cup honey
- 1 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Large egg
- Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl: Flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
- Whisk the wet ingredients in a medium bowl: Coconut oil, egg, honey, vanilla and almond milk.
- Pour the mixture with the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overmix. Set the mixture aside for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and line the muffin tin with liners while the mixture is set aside.
- Mix in the blueberries and divide the batter evenly among the muffin tin holes. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with more oats for garnish.
- Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping the pan around the ten-minute mark to bake all muffins evenly.
- The muffins are done when you insert a toothpick into the center of the muffins and it comes out clean without any batter on it.
- Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes and transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
No-bake vegan blueberry breakfast bars
These vegan blueberry bars don’t need to be baked and they’re perfect for a quick and tasty breakfast or snack.
Ingredients for 16 servings:
- 1 1/5 Cups 100 percent pure, uncontaminated, rolled oats (certified gluten-free)
- 1 Cup almond butter
- 3/4 Cup whole almonds
- 1/2 Heaping cup dried blueberries
- ½ cup pistachios
- 1/3 Cup ground flaxseed
- 1/3 Cup pepitas
- 1/3 Cup pure maple syrup or honey
- 1/3 Cup walnuts
- 1/4 Cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 Cup unsweetened apple sauce
- Line an 8″x 8″ or similar size baking pan with parchment or wax paper until the paper hangs over the edges.
- Combine the oats, almonds, blueberries, pistachios, ground flaxseed, walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds in a large bowl and mix to combine.
- Add the maple syrup or honey and apple sauce to the large bowl, then mix again to combine.
- Add the almond butter to the combined ingredients in the bowl and mix until combined.
- Place the batter in the prepared pan. Press down firmly with the palm of your hands or use a mini-roller. Distribute the mixture as evenly as possible.
- Leave the pan in the freezer for at least one hour.
- Remove the pan from the freezer.
- Carefully lift the frozen slab from the pan using the excess along the edges. Set the slab down and gently peel the paper away.
- Slice the slab diagonally into eight long bars, and then cut each long bar in half to create 16 bars. Store the bars in a sealed container or bag in the freezer.
- Since this recipe doesn’t contain additives like fillers and binders, they won’t gel together like store-bought breakfast bars do. But that’s one small sacrifice that’s worth it if you love having a healthy snack that’s also good for you, minus the harmful added ingredients.
- Outside the freezer these bars might gradually lose shape, but you could use traveling or lunchbox ice packs to keep them in one piece until you’re ready to eat them.
- You can substitute any nut or seed of choice or nut or seed butter. You can also use your preferred dried fruit like sliced apricots, cranberries, cherries, dates, or figs.
- Note that if you remove one ingredient, you must replace them with a similar one to ensure that the bars form in the same way.
- Pure oatmeal doesn’t contain gluten, but many commercially sold oats do because of cross-contamination. If you are gluten-sensitive or have celiac disease, make sure you only use certified “gluten-free” oatmeal.