What is blue, sweet and juicy and may help ward off those nagging memory lapses? If you guessed blueberries, you would be right. Americans apparently cannot get enough of the delicious fruit. In 2008, the latest year that data are available, per capita blueberry consumption in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 12.3 ounces, roughly the size of one standard supermarket carton—an increase from 9.2 ounces in 2007. Whether we are eating more blueberries because they are good for us or just taste good is anyone’s guess, but now there is even more reason to load up the shopping cart with plump Vaccinium cyanococcus: they may protect our brain.
Emerging research suggests that compounds in blueberries known as flavonoids may improve memory, learning and general cognitive function, including reasoning skills, decision making, verbal comprehension and numerical ability. In addition, studies comparing dietary habits with cognitive function in adults hint that consuming flavonoids may help slow the decline in mental facility that is often seen with aging and might even provide protection against disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.