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Berries for Brain Power

Recent research shows eating berries may protect against mental decline

Health Nutrition—Berries!

Polyphenols, which give berries their deep-red or -blue hue, can help fight age-related mental decline. — Photo by Lisa Shinn; food stylist: Margarette Adams; prop stylist: Angharad Bailey.

Glorious blueberries, sweet acai berries, luscious strawberries — new research shows they may boost your aging brain.

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As we get older, damaged cells accumulate in the brain, which can lead to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. That's where berries come in. Polyphenols, which give berries their deep-red or -blue hue, activate proteins that "clean up" damaged cells, breaking down and recycling the toxic chemicals linked to age-related mental decline, says study author Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., a molecular biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston.

These berried treasures do more than help your mind: Blueberries rank first among fruits for their antioxidant powers, strawberries are tops in vitamin C, and acai berries contain high levels of omega-6 and -9 fatty acids, thought to play a role in cardiovascular health, says nutritionist Robyn Webb, food editor of Diabetes Forecast magazine.

So — ready to increase your berry intake? Add them to cereal, purée them into sauces, or just eat them fresh.

Next page: Try these healthy and delicious berry recipes. »

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