by Hannah Gresham-Britt*, Accredited Practicing Dietitian
Brains are the biggest energy users of the human body, requiring plenty of nourishment to keep functioning at their best. The foods we eat are important for providing proper fuel to keep our minds and brains working, but equally important are all the other nutrients that can impact our brain health as we age.
One type of food that has received a great deal of attention for their brain-boosting benefits are berries. Research has shown that eating berries benefits the brain and can promote healthy ageing. One study looking at 16,000 women over a 15 year period found that those who ate 1-2 serves of berries throughout midlife delayed cognitive decline by 2.5 years – that is, their brains were ageing more slowly than that of their peers1.
Other studies have looked at the more immediate benefits of berry consumption. People in these studies who consumed strawberry or blueberry supplements over a 3-6 month period had improved memory, attention and executive function2.
How do berries work their brain-boosting magic?
Their benefits are partially due to the fact that they are nutritional powerhouses, full of fibre, vitamins and minerals while being deceptively low in sugar. They are also rich sources of ‘bioactives’, naturally occurring chemicals found in plant foods that have health-promoting benefits. Berries are the richest known source of a type of bioactive known as polyphenols, a family of chemicals that benefits the health of all different parts of the body from the gut to the heart to the brain3.
Berries also benefit the brain indirectly by improving the overall health of the body. People who consistently eat berries have better cardiovascular health, most likely due to the abundance of fibre and bioactives3. Healthy hearts help maintain brain health due to better circulation and blood flow to the brain3. Berries improve gut health as their fibre and pre-biotic content support healthy gut bacteria, which ferment our food to produce chemicals that support brain health.
The MIND diet, a diet aimed at improving brain health and decreasing cognitive decline, suggests eating two serves of berries (of any type) per week. However, berries are one type of food that it is almost impossible for most people to eat too much of and can be eaten every day without causing any issues. So try incorporating berries into your meals and snacks on a regular basis – your brain will thank you for it.
Recipe ideas for berries
- Blend ½ cup of mixed berries with ½ cup of yoghurt and ½ cup of milk for a delicious smoothie
- Include berries in salads for a splash of sweetness and colour
- Incorporate berries into cheese platters and share plates when entertaining
- Add a handful of berries to yoghurt or cereals
- See the Driscoll’s website for more creative recipe ideas: https://www.driscolls.com.au/collections
- Devore, E. E., Kang, J. H., Breteler, M. M., & Grodstein, F. (2012). Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Annals of neurology, 72(1), 135–143. https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.23594
- Krikorian, R., Skelton, M.R., Summer, S.S., Shidler, M.D., Sullivan, P.G. (2022). Blueberry Supplementation in Midlife for Dementia Risk Reduction. Nutrients, 14, (1619). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081619
- Bonyadi, N., Dolatkhah, N., Salekzamani, Y., & Hashemian, M. (2022). Effect of berry-based supplements and foods on cognitive function: a systematic review.Scientific reports, 12(1), 3239. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-07302-4
- Nourish your gut, feed your brain (infographic), from Nutrition Research Australia https://nraus.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/Berries-Consumer-Fact-sheet-web.pdf
- Diet Review: The MIND Diet, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/mind-diet/
- Pages on this website including: