Summer fruits are back on Australian tables. We’ve long known cherries and other stone fruits provide a range of essential vitamins and minerals. But here’s another reason to make sure they’re on the shopping list: they’re good for the brain.
Flavonoids are nutrients that contain more than 6,000 unique compounds. They’re widespread in plants, and are grouped into five subclasses: flavonols, flavan-3-ols, flavones, flavonones and anthocyanins.
The major sources of flavonoids in the diets of older Australians are black tea (89%), oranges and orange juice (2.7%), green tea (1.3%) and bananas (0.9%).
Flavonoids protect plants from microbe and insect damage, which may explain some of their observed health benefits in humans. They contribute to the sensory characteristics of foods such as flavour, astringency and colour.
Anthocyanins, for example, provide the red, blue and purple pigments in fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries and plums. They’re also found in red wine, tea, coffee, and some vegetables such as red onion and cabbage. (Check out Mamamia TV’s green smoothie recipe. Post continues after video.)
How do berries improve brain health?
Anthocyanin-rich fruits have been shown to affect the brain in several ways. It is thought that a number of pathways work together to improve cognition and prevent degeneration of the brain.
First, the high antioxidant content of these fruits may scavenge free-radicals and reduce inflammation in the brain.
Additionally, flavonoids in the fruit have the potential to inhibit cell death of nerve cells (neurons), and improve connections between the neurons, especially in the areas of the brain associated with learning and memory (hippocampus).
Flavonoids may also disrupt the aggregation of amyloid beta (A?) in the brain and thereby prevent formation of amyloid plaques. Amyloid plaques are sticky buildups of these proteins which accumulate outside neurons, and are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development. (Post continues after gallery.)
Consuming a large serve of anthocyanin-rich fruits may boost learning ability, memory and motor skills.