Girl Brain Power, Berry Style! (or the tummydoc's garden week 3: the raspberry)

The Raspberry
The Raspberry

I always love to talk to my patients about their diet.  What is good, what is bad, and what is downright ugly. 

We all feel better when we eat certain foods.   Eat a large meal late at night and chances are you’ll sleep poorly.  Not only that, your digestive system will remind you with waves of upset and nausea that a pizza at midnight is not a good choice.  Eat an early dinner with fresh fruits, veggies and fish and, wow, you feel great!

While some of the problem has to do with conditions like acid reflux brought on by eating fatty meals late at night, the nutrients from the foods also play a role.

That brings us to our next tummydoc garden selection, the raspberry.  Medical studies are popping up that show how the antioxidants inherent to colorful berries can improve brain function.

Before we get into those, let’s talk about raspberries.  They are a delicious and wonderful perennial addition to your garden.  With a slightly acidic soil, they will thrive.  In fact, they are so vigorous, they may start taking over nearby space. 

Fiber Up

The fruit itself is made up of tiny lobules called aggregates.  This translates to raspberries having more surface area per weight than many other fruits.  From a nutrition perspective, this makes raspberries a great source of fiber. 

Vitamins & Minerals

Raspberries are also a good source of Vitamin C and manganese, which is important for your body’s normally functioning, especially bone health.

women's brain health
women's brain health

So why Raspberries?

Now, let’s talk about how eating raspberries on a regular basis may be good for the mind.  Researchers know that the normal wear and tear on the brain eventually takes its toll.  For some, it may just be that you aren’t as quick to recall a word.  For others, the consequences are more severe, like in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Antioxidants

It turns out that certain people are better able to protect against this normal brain stress.  For many, diet plays an essential role.  Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are also very rich in substances called antioxidants.  Much of the physical damage to cells that causes everything from the brain slowing down to wrinkles occurs through a process called oxidative stress.  As the names imply, antioxidants can help counteract this damage.

Polyphenols

It turns out the same substances that give berries their rich and vibrant colors are also antioxidants.  In general, these substances are called polyphenols.  Of the polyphenols, a subtype, called flavonoids, has gained positive press recently.  Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants also found in foods normally regarded as treats, such as chocolate.  In berries, certain flavonoids, called anthocyanidins, are particularly effective.  To read more on this, visit the free article at http://www.expert-reviews.com/doi/pdf/10.1586/ern.12.86.

Concord Grape Juice and for the Mind

In a recent review in the Journal of Nutrition, the authors identified berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts as particularly beneficial to keep the brain healthy.  One study demonstrated that older adults who drank Concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks had significant benefits for their brain health.  In another by the same group, adults who ate berries for 12 weeks improved their memory and behavior compared to those who did not.  To learn more about these studies, get a free copy of the article at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/9/1813S.long.

Girl Brain Power

Finally, a recent article in the Annals of Neurology showed that the brain benefits of eating berries on a regular basis was especially applicable to women.  In the study, 16,010 women over the age of 70 were were tested for brain function.  Women who ate more berries had brains which were functioning 2.5 years “younger” than those who did not enjoy these delicious fruits. 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.  I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a big bowl of berries. 

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.