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Leafy Greens and Blueberries: Keeping You Young and Happy
Written by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
Don’t you love it when research discovers new, miraculous benefits you can get from eating common foods?
To me there’s nothing more exciting. So let me give you the good news:
Leafy greens can help slow the aging of your brain
Blueberries show promise for treating post-traumatic stress disorder
Okay, do I have your attention?
Let’s start with leafy greens.
A recent study by Rush University evaluated the cognitive abilities of 950 older men and women over a period ranging between two and 10 years. Initially, participants filled out in-depth questionnaires about their daily eating habits. Then they were given a battery of tests annually to measure their cognitive functioning. Incredibly, the results showed that those who ate a serving or two of leafy greens daily had, on average, the cognitive functioning of someone 11 years younger than those who didn’t consume leafy greens.
The leafy greens actually slowed mental decline by an average of 11 years!
Leafy greens are high in nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, lutein, and vitamin K, and researchers think that’s why they have so much impact on our brains.
And the many nutrients in leafy greens have previously been shown to offer a number of other benefits, including:
Reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers
Promoting bone health
Contributing to eye health
So the reasons for eating plenty of greens are plentiful. And now that we’re discovering how leafy greens protect the brain, consuming them daily seems smarter than ever.
How about blueberries?
There are many reasons to love them. They’re delicious and give lots of us warm cozy thoughts of bygone summers. But more importantly, blueberries are full of vitamins and nutrients. And studies have shown that these little berries:
Reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and some cancers
Promote bone health
Contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure
Assist in the management of diabetes
Reduce age-related cognitive decline while improving short-term memory and motor coordination
And now there’s a surprising new discovery about blueberries.
They may turn out to be an even better way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than medicines like Paxil or Zoloft.
It’s too early for those being treated for PTSD to throw away their meds in favor of berries. But that time might come. Let me explain.
Right now, the standard treatment for PTSD involves selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and their level of efficacy varies from patient to patient.
One reason SSRIs may not be as reliably effective as we’d like is that they raise levels of both serotonin and the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Researchers think that raising serotonin is helpful for PTSD sufferers, but raising norepinephrine—the stress hormone that makes our heart beat faster and our hands sweat when we have the fight-or-flight response—is not.
This means blueberries hold potential for being a more effective PTSD treatment than SSRIs. And this could have applications for other disorders and brain issues as well.
Now, as I said, if you’re being treated for PTSD, it’s too early to just ditch your medicine. (If you’re taking a medication that’s not working well for you, talk to your doctor.) But it’s definitely not too early for all of us to incorporate blueberries into our regular diet.
When it comes to blueberries and leafy greens, researchers will probably be discovering new miracle benefits for years to come. But eating them regularly now gives you the best chance of experiencing those coming years with a strong, healthy body and a sharp, youthful mind.
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