Tufts’ Nutrition Experts Answer Your Questions On The Benefits Of Berries

At the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, you can tell it is blueberry season by the bowls of local blueberries popping up on desks across campus. So, this month, we’ve gathered a bushel of our subscribers’ questions and experts’ answers about the benefits of these antioxidant rich berries.

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Anthocyanins are pigments belonging to the flavonoid group of phytochemicals that give blue, purple, and red colors to berries and other fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Q. It’s not always convenient to eat fresh blueberries. How do frozen and dried blueberries compare in nutrition and brain benefits?

A. Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, of Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, has researched the brain benefits of blueberries and their anthocyanin compounds. She says, “Frozen berries do not lose their potency. For dried blueberries it depends on how they were dried. High temperatures cause berries to release more anthocyanins, but then they degrade faster.” Freeze drying, which does not require heating the berries, preserves their anthocyanin content; in fact, some of the studies on blueberries and cognition have used a powder made from freeze-dried fruit.

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Polyphenols are the most abundant antioxidant in our diets.

Q. Do blackberries have similar brain benefits from polyphenols as seen in blueberries?

A. “Increased dietary intake of berry fruit, in particular, has a positive impact on human health, performance, and disease,” says Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, of Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory. Shukitt-Hale and colleagues, who have shown cognitive benefits from blueberry consumption, performed a similar experiment with blackberry extracts. Their study, published in Nutritional Neuroscience, tested a 2% blackberry-supplemented diet for its effectiveness in reversing age-related deficits in behavioral and neuron function when fed to aged rats for eight weeks. “The…

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