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Blueberries, Superfood or Myth?
A Deep Dive Into Natures Brain Food
All the time on Twitter you will see people talking about the magic powers of blueberries and how they will fix your brain.
Namely, @DejaRu22, and then of course myself (kinda giving away the answer to the title here).
I don’t throw the word “superfood” around lightly. There are only about a dozen of foods I actually consider superfoods when you equate both their nutrient values + additional unique health benefits (things like polyphenols, phytonutrients, and such that aren’t “essential” but have profound benefits). That list is (in no particular order):
Salmon and other fatty, omega-3-rich seafood
Cruciferous Vegetables (estrogen regulation)
(Probably leaving some things out, but nonetheless, these are all great so whatever).
While the term “superfood” is thrown around as a marketing buzzword, this word can be directly applied to blueberries—especially when it comes to your brain power.
The reality is, of all the foods I can think of you can purchase at the local grocery store, blueberries are going to have one of the most profound benefits on your brain health and cognitive abilities.
Before we dive into all the benefits, let me disclaim I am NOT in the pockets of “Big Fruit” or Wyman’s Frozen Wild Blueberries, I am simply posting about the immense benefits from a nutritional science and biological standpoint with listed references (see footnotes if interested at the bottom).
Enter Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF):
When it comes to the brain benefits of blueberries, this is going to be one of the key factors. Blueberries have the unique ability to increase/activate Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the brain.1
Why is this important? Let’s briefly look into the role of BDNF within our noggins:
From this post on Frontiers:
Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a key molecule involved in plastic changes related to learning and memory. The expression of BDNF is highly regulated, and can lead to great variability in BDNF levels in healthy subjects. Changes in BDNF expression are associated with both normal and pathological aging and also psychiatric disease, in particular in structures important for memory processes such as the hippocampus and parahippocampal areas.
For those normal people (not nerds like me) and more visual learners:
In short, BDNF is like a natural propellent for the brain to form new connections and protect itself from decline. When levels are high it allows us to learn and memorize things faster, as well as helps us maintain better moods.
When it is low our brains are more susceptible to negative outcomes—depression, more difficulty learning, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia/Alzheimer’s.
Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that promote this increase in BDNF, so in a literal sense, blueberries DO improve brain power and help protect your brain from degeneration (or losing brain cells as some might say).2
The Other Benefits of Blueberries
*In my best TV infomercial voice*
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Being that blueberries are the king of antioxidant foods, the benefits do not stop just at literally improving your brain and ability to learn, they also provide a wide array of other rather impactful health benefits.
Blueberries contain an antioxidant subtype called flavonoids and of these flavonoids specifically high levels of anthocyanins—which is thought to be responsible for the brain benefits as well as other benefits like slowing the growth of cancer cells3, reducing inflammation, preventing heart disease4, and even improving insulin sensitivity/anti-diabetic5.
The last part is very interesting considering blueberries are mainly carbohydrates/sugar so most would think it would be a negative, but in fact, they are not. While being almost solely carbohydrates and water, blueberries are also high in fiber (4g per 1 cup) which can help improve gut health and regulate bowel movements.
On top of this, it is also a great source of other nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and Manganese.
In short, yeah, they are pretty fucking awesome little fruits.
How Much Should You Consume?
As with all things, context matters, we are all different, yada yada yada…
I have done TONS of research on this, there is no clear number on “optimal amounts” but common sense is going to say keeping them an appropriate proportion to your total dietary intake.
At a base, a serving or two a day will start to see benefits—this is half a cup to 1 cup of blueberries, some even opt to be more extreme (like me) and have as much as 4+ cups a day—mostly because I just like how they taste and how few calories they have, a healthy candy of sorts.
At the end of the day, incorporate them in your diet as much as you prefer and can fit into your macronutrient goals, the only factor to consider is your kidney health and proneness to kidney stones as blueberries do contain oxalates which *can* cause some issues in those who are prone to those issues.
Frozen or Fresh
The short answer here is it really doesn’t matter.
Frozen can actually be better, especially considering what season and how fresh your access to blueberries are. With all things, we want to consume as close to the source as we can as a rule of thumb.
This is actually why frozen blueberries are a great option because, during the freezing process, they are flash frozen at their peak point of freshness after harvest so they maintain that freshness longer due to the nature of freezing foods like fruits (it’s like fruit cryogenic chambers lol).
Go with whatever route has the least exposure to chemicals, preservatives, and added sugar if you are worried about things like that. Personally, I use Wyman’s Wild Blueberries.
Blueberries do truly live up to their hype, within reason. They aren’t going to turn some stupid person into a genius, but they can enhance and protect your brain.
Outside of this profound benefit, they are also simply just a healthy food, and incorporating them into your diet is going to be a smart move.
As mentioned above, half a cup to a cup a day is going to be a good baseline to establish the benefits of blueberry consumption. Realistically, if you enjoy them just eat them in a way that fits your diet goals, they shouldn’t be your sole source of food anyway so unless you just go consistent 24/7, 365 binges on blueberries all day then you won’t have any issues.
Personally, I like to have them daily in a shake.
2 Cups Kefir
1 Cup Blueberries
1 Serving of Greek Yogurt or 1 Scoop of Whey
1 Cup Strawberries (also very healthy)
Half a cup of milk
(Occasionally) 1-3 Raw Eggs (depending on caloric needs)
I like to have this after the gym or anytime I just don’t really feel like eating a full meal.
In conclusion, blueberries are fucking great, so much so that they got their own post. Just beware that if you don’t eat many/any now and start, your poop is going to be blue or even black looking. It’s not internal bleeding (hopefully) it is the blueberries.
Enjoy becoming a little Smurf!
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.