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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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VIDEO EXTRA

BRAIN HEALTH: The latest research shows our brains don’t necessarily deteriorate as we age and brain atrophy is reversible. There are many ways to keep our brains fit, just as we exercise other parts of our body to keep them healthy.

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