5 cups of mixed berries provides brain healthy polyphenols.
Berries act as "Housekeepers" for the Brain
In a recent study presented by Shibu Poulose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, it was reported that berries, and possibly walnuts, activate the brain's natural "housekeeper" mechanism that removes toxic proteins linked to memory loss and mental decline due to aging. Cells in the brain called microglia act as housekeepers. They remove and recycle debris that could end up interfering with brain function.
"But in aging, microglia fail to do their work, and debris builds up", Poulose says. "In addition, the microglia become over-activated and actually begin to damage healthy cells in the brain". He goes on to explain, "our research suggests that the polyphenolics in berries have a rescuing effect. They seem to restore the normal housekeeping function. These findings are the first to show these effects of berries".
So eating lots our favorite berries may help our aging brains stay healthy and young!
How do Berries do this?
Poulose reports, "the good news is that natural compounds called polyphenolics found in fruits, vegetables and nuts have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect that may protect against age-associated decline". He and James Joseph, who died June 1, 2010, did some ground-breaking research on how antioxidants in fruits and nuts prevent cognitive decline due to aging.
In a previous study, they showed that feeding laboratory rats a diet containing 2% extract of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries resulted in a reversal of age-related declines in brain function.
What other Foods are Rich in Polyphenolics?
Besides berries and walnuts, Poulose encourages people to eat other fruits and vegetables that contain polyphenols emphasizing the importance of consuming the "whole fruit" that contains hundreds of plant-chemicals.
Polyphenols are found in many rich colored foods.
Besides berries, other fruits include dark grapes, cherries, apples, dark plums and citrus.
Most vegetables provide polyphenols, especially ones that are brightly colored - red, orange, blue, yellow, purple and green.
Whole grains, beans (especially soybeans) and nuts are good sources.
Coffee, tea (especially green tea), red wine and chocolate also contain good amounts of this important plant chemical.
Here's a healthful and delicious recipe that contains many of these high polyphenol foods and takes advantage of all those fresh berries that are in season! Besides polyphenols, each serving provides nearly 5 grams of fiber and over 700 mg of omega 3 fatty acid.
Feel free to change the relative amounts of the berries or to substitute different kinds. Just make sure you end up with a total of 5 cups of berries.
Vegan Mixed Berry Crisp
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup English walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons organic cane sugar
4 packets Stevia extract (optional, for added sweetness)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Earth balance (vegan buttery spread)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine berries in a 9X13 inch pan. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, oats, walnuts, cane sugar, stevia extract and cinnamon. Cut in buttery spread until the mixture is crumbly.
Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the berries.
Bake for 40 minutes or until fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
Per serving: 226.4 calories, 12.1 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.6 g protein, 26.9 g carbohydrates, 4.8 g fiber and 734 mg ALA omega 3 fatty acid.