As a nutritional psychiatrist, a large part of my job involves counseling patients, especially those who want to improve their brain health or are trying to recover from trauma, about what foods to incorporate into their daily diet.
And there are so many options, from leafy greens like spinach and kale to nuts like almonds and walnuts. But through my years of research, I’ve found one to be the most beneficial when it comes to helping your brain age well: blueberries.
I suggest adding 1/2 to a cup per day. Frozen blueberries are just as good as long as they don’t have any added sugars, juice, or preservatives.
Versatile, affordable, and absolutely delicious, here’s why I love eating blueberries every morning:
1. They are rich in flavonoids
Blueberries are packed with flavonoids, which are plant compounds that offer a variety of health benefits. Studies have found can reduce your risk of dementia.
People who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of flavonoid-rich foods may have a 20 percent lower risk of cognitive decline, according to a studio 2021 which surveyed 49,493 women with an average age of 48 years and 27,842 men with an average age of 51 years.
2. They are packed with antioxidants.
Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that gives these berries their characteristic color. anthocyanins support healthy stress tolerance and anti-inflammation throughout the body, particularly in the brain.
Antioxidant phytonutrients, i.e. plant nutrients, found in blueberries as well calm inflammation in the body and brain, and protect cells from damage.
3. They are rich in fiber.
I often talk about the deep connection between our gut and our brain, or what I call the “gut-brain romance.”
Like antioxidants, fiber decreases inflammation and feeds the “good bacteria” in your gut. Blueberries are rich in fiber, which allows them improve our microbiome health and reduce inflammation in the gut and brain.
4. They contain folate
Folate is an important vitamin that allows neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers within our brains that govern mood and cognition, to function properly.
Where a folate deficiency may underlie some neurological conditions, improving folate status has beneficial effects on our mental health, brain health and cognitive age.
I love to carry a small container of blueberries in my bag as a healthy snack for 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 Blueberry Popsicles
These easy homemade ice creams are soothing due to their fresh, slightly sweet flavor. Watermelons are 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 added flavor.
Servings: 6 to 8 bursts
preparation time: 10 minutes
- 2 cups chopped seedless watermelon
- 1 cup almond or coconut milk (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lime zest
- 1/4 tablespoon of honey
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- Puree watermelon with milk, if using, in a blender.
- Add the lime juice, lime zest, and honey.
- Pour into stainless steel popsicle molds until each mold is two-thirds full, leaving room for blueberries.
Chia pudding topped with walnuts and blueberries
Chia pudding is a great way to start your day and doesn’t require any morning prep. Since it has to be in the fridge overnight, you can make it the night before.
preparation time: 10 minutes
- 1/2 cup light canned organic coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- A handful of cranberries and walnuts
- Pour the coconut milk into a mason jar and add the honey, vanilla, and cinnamon. Sprinkle chia seeds on top.
- Screw on the lid of the mason jar and shake well so that the seeds mix with the milk.
- Chill overnight in the fridge.
- Serve topped with cranberries and walnuts.
Dr Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist, brain expert, and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She is also director of lifestyle and nutritional psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of the best-selling book “This is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Amazing Foods That Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.” Follow her on Twitter @DrUmaNaidoo.
Do not miss: