Strawberries and blueberries are rich in powerful substances called flavonoids, which are believed to deliver tremendous health benefits, and are said to have antioxidant properties that help the body fight attacks from harmful chemicals that could cause cellular damage.
Specific types of flavonoids call anthrocyanidins give fruit and vegetables their color and are said to provide protection against inflammation and aging. They have also been credited with prevention of diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.
A new study published in the Annals of Neurology looked at the association between dietary intake of berries and flavonoids with cognitive decline in women. The results showed that eating blueberries, strawberries, flavonoids, and anthrocyanidins was highly associated with slower cognitive decline in older women. For blueberries, the effect was seen with about a half cup each week and for strawberries it took about a cup per week. The belief is that anthrocyanidins that come from berries are unique in that they are able to cross the blood-brain barrier (membranes which prevent some substances from crossing from the blood into the brain) and reach areas of the brain known to be involved with learning and memory. The results of this study is not surprising since a prior small study showed that berry supplementation helped cognitive function in older adults with cognitive impairments, and there have been multiple rat studies which showed improvement in nerve signaling and cognitive behavior when rats were fed strawberries or blueberries.
This information is significant since the expected aging of the population could mean more people with cognitive decline, and including berries in the diet may be an easy way to help offset some of the expected brain aging. Aside from blueberries and strawberries, other fruits and vegetables high in anthrocyanidins include red and black grapes, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, red cabbage, red onions, and eggplant.