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We tend to think of cranberries as something you eat at Thanksgiving. But there are plenty of reasons to slip these powerful health boosters into your diet all year round.
For instance, not only are cranberries great for preventing painful urinary tract infections, they can actually make bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics. This can help get around the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Cranberries aren’t the only colorful berries that contain the potent antioxidants known as polyphenols. But cranberries pair these polyphenols with other bioactive compounds that help improve your gut health, strengthen your immune system, balance your blood sugar and keep your heart healthy.
Two other antioxidants in cranberries, resveratrol and anthocyanins, have been shown to improve cognition and turn back the clock on brain aging. This has prompted researchers to dig deeper into the specific benefits cranberries may provide for brain health…
Cranberries improve memory and brain blood flow
A research team at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the U.K. recently studied the impact of eating cranberries in a group of cognitively healthy participants ages 50 to 80. Half the participants consumed a freeze-dried cranberry powder that was equivalent to eating 100 grams of fresh cranberries every day. The other half received a placebo.
After 12 weeks, the group consuming cranberries showed significant improvement in their memory of everyday events, as well as neural functioning and delivery of blood to the brain.
“We found that the participants who consumed the cranberry powder showed significantly improved episodic memory performance in combination with improved circulation of essential nutrients such as oxygen and glucose to important parts of the brain that support cognition — specifically memory consolidation and retrieval,” says Dr. David Vauzour of UEA’s Norwich Medical School.
Vauzour observed the cranberry group also showed a marked decrease in LDL cholesterol levels. This “bad” cholesterol contributes to the build-up of plaque that leads to the thickening or hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis.
“This supports the idea that cranberries can improve vascular health and may in part contribute to the improvement in brain perfusion and cognition,” he says.
The study is one of the first to examine the long-term impact of cranberry consumption on cognition and brain health in humans. A previous study did however find they improved heart and blood vessel function in just 30 days.
“The findings of this study are very encouraging, especially considering that a relatively short 12-week cranberry intervention was able to produce significant improvements in memory and neural function,” Vauzour says. “This establishes an important foundation for future research in the area of cranberries and neurological health.”
Putting cranberry power to work
Judging by these results, adding cranberries to your diet is one lifestyle change you can make to bolster your odds of good brain health as you age.
One of the easiest ways to add a concentrated shot of cranberries to your diet is to drink cranberry juice. However, because cranberries are extremely tart, it can be difficult for most people to drink 100 percent straight unsweetened cranberry juice.
That’s why a lot of so-called cranberry juices are adulterated to make them sweeter and more palatable to drink. And this can reduce their health impact.
When looking for 100 percent cranberry juice, you’ll want to watch for words like “100 percent cranberry juice drink.” These tend to be mixed with sweeter fruit juices like grape and apple to mellow the tart flavor of the cranberry, so you still won’t be getting 100 percent cranberry juice.
Additionally, along with greens powders, it’s becoming increasingly common to find berry powders to mix with water or juice.
If cranberries are just not your favorite berry you may be glad to know that blueberries and chokeberries (Aronia berry) are also rich in unique proanthocyanidins, which are suspected to be among the most powerful macronutrients responsible for the cranberry’s healthy effects.
Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!
How Cranberries Could Improve Memory and Ward Off Dementia — University of East Anglia
Chronic Consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 Weeks Improves Episodic Memory and Regional Brain Perfusion in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Groups Feasibility Study — Frontiers in Nutrition
Simply® Cranberry Cocktail — Simply Beverages