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A Harvard dietitian shares the #1 food she eats every day to keep her brain ‘sharpened and focused’


Eat true “brain-boosting foods” can significantly reduce your risk of developing neurological problems, improve your mental health, and help you maintain sharp and focused.

As a nutritional psychologist, much of my job is to advise patients – especially those who want to improve their brain health or are trying to recover from an injury – about the foods they should eat. Incorporate into your daily diet.

And there are plenty of options, from greens like spinach and kale to nuts like almonds and walnuts. But through years of research, I’ve found one fruit most beneficial when it comes to helping your brain age: blueberries.

Brain-boosting benefits of blueberries

I suggest adding 1/2 to a cup per day. Frozen blueberries are fine as long as they don’t have added sugar, juices or preservatives.

Versatile, accessible and absolutely scrumptious, here’s why I love eating blueberries every morning:

1. They contain a lot of flavonoids

Blueberries are high in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that have many health benefits. Studies have found It may reduce the risk of dementia.

People who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving a day of flavonoid-rich foods can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by 20 percent, according to a study. Research in 2021 surveyed 49,493 women with a mean age of 48 and 27,842 men with a mean age of 51.

2. They are packed with antioxidants.

Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that gives these fruits their distinctive color. Anthocyanins support healthy stress tolerance and anti-inflammatory effects throughout the body, especially in the brain.

Antioxidant phytonutrients – i.e. phytonutrients – are also found in blueberries Quenching inflammation in the body and brain, and protect cells from damage.

3. They are rich in fiber.

I talk often about the deep connection between our gut and our brain – or what I call the “gut-brain romance”.

Like antioxidants, fiber reduces inflammation and provides “good bacteria” in the gut. Blueberries are rich in fiber, which allows them to improve our microbiome health and reduce inflammation in the gut and brain.

4. They contain folate

Folate is an important vitamin that allows neurotransmitters, chemical messengers in the brain that govern mood and cognition, to function properly.

As folate deficiency can cause a number of neurological conditions, improving folate status can beneficial effect about our mental health, brain health, and cognitive age.

How to Incorporate Blueberries into Your Diet

I like to carry a small box of blueberries in my pocket as a healthy snack when I’m on the go. But if you want to get creative with your blueberry intake, here are two of my favorite recipes:

Watermelon and Blueberry Ice Pops

These simple homemade ice cubes are very pleasant because of their cool, mildly sweet taste. Watermelon is also rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, B, and C. These treats can be made with almond milk for a creamier texture or coconut milk for extra flavor.

Meal portion: 6 to 8 pop-ups
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredient:

  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Steps:

  1. Puree watermelon with milk, if using, in a blender.
  2. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and honey and stir well.
  3. Pour into stainless steel ice cube molds until each is 2/3 full, leaving room for blueberries.

Split pudding with nuts and blueberries

Chia pudding is a great way to start the day and requires no pre-morning preparation. Since it must be kept in the refrigerator overnight, you can prepare it the night before.

Meal portion: 2
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredient:

  • 1/2 cup organic canned light coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • Some blueberries and nuts

Steps:

  1. Pour the coconut milk into the jar and then add the honey, vanilla and cinnamon and stir well. Sprinkle chia seeds on top.
  2. Screw on the lid of the jar and shake well to mix the seeds with the milk.
  3. Chill overnight in the refrigerator.
  4. Serve with blueberries and nuts.

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist, brain specialist, and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. She is also the Director of Nutrition & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the bestselling author of the book. “Here’s Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.” Follow her on Twitter @DrUmaNaidoo.

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