Photo: Strawberry Farmer Tom Jones
As seen on WebMD’s Real Nutrition
By David Grotto, RD, LDN
Some of you might think that I have fruit on the mind, especially with my post last week about the wonders of watermelon. (BTW – for you watermelon “thumpers” out there who hit me up in the comment section, according to University of Illinois agricultural researchers, “thumping” is NOT a reliable way to determine which watermelon is most ripe and sweet – sorry! Here’s the article to support the tips I suggested in last week’s post). The rest of you might think that I have the title of the famous Beatles’ song wrong here or that I’m just trying to be clever. The truth is I’m just trying to be clever. In fact, I’m always trying to find things that might help my aging brain work a little bit better or at least as good as it used to. And the key may lie with substances found in strawberries and other fruits that end in “erry”.
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that my love for strawberries is profound – so much so that I’m teaming up with the California Strawberry Commission (CSC) to talk to fellow food bloggers about the health and nutrition benefits of strawberries next week in California. But even before working with CSC, I discovered the wonders of strawberries for brain health on my own when writing my first book, 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. In my second book, 101 Optimal Life Foods, I devoted an entire section to those foods that might enhance brain health, whether it be for fighting depression, getting better sleep, or simply helping out in the area of cognition – like remembering where you left your car keys. Those foods included Concord grapes, walnuts, tea, wine, chocolate, coffee, the herb turmeric, and blueberries as well as strawberries. Turns out that many of the aforementioned foods contain powerful antioxidants called flavanoids which help stave off oxidative stress that leads to impaired brain function. These same flavanoids in research have demonstrated the ability to improve both short- and long-term memory. In a study out of Tufts University, strawberry extract fed to rats slowed declines in cognitive function. Strawberries plant nutrients are the subject of exciting research as they may help enhance signaling between brain neurons, enabling the brain to communicate with each part of itself more effectively.
Many of the same risk factors for heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as obesity, hypertension, and high blood sugar, are now thought to increase the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia. Inadequate intake of antioxidants over the lifespan has also been implicated in Alzheimer’s and dementia. Strawberries’ rich payload of antioxidants help promote healthy blood flow that feeds the heart as well as the brain. Research shows that the antioxidants in strawberries are efficiently absorbed within one hour of being eaten and many of the same antioxidants slowly increase in concentration in the brain with regular consumption. Strawberries are also a source of potassium, which benefits blood pressure, and are one of the lowest sugar-containing fruits with only 8 grams of sugar per cup, making them an ideal choice for blood glucose and weight management. Strawberries are rich in the antioxidant vitamin C, supplying 160 percent of the daily recommended amount in one cup. Vitamin C is one of the antioxidants found to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Chomping on some strawberries would be a berry good thing to do for brain health as well as supporting the rest of the body. Besides, what good is a brain if it doesn’t have a body to boss around? Here’s a real smart choice for breakfast and a fave recipe featured on the http://www.CaliforniaStrawberries.com website
1½ cups (about 8 ounces) fresh strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons butter
Confectioners’ sugar, as needed
In bowl, combine strawberries, mint, vinegar and 1½ teaspoons of the granulated sugar; set aside. In small bowl, whisk egg yolks with vanilla and remaining ½ teaspoon granulated sugar for 1 minute or until slightly thickened. In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. With rubber spatula, fold yolks into whites until no streaks remain. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter. (To make 2 individual omelets, use 6-inch nonstick skillet.) When butter is sizzling, add egg mixture, spreading it into an even layer with spatula. Cover pan; reduce heat to low. Cook omelet 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown on bottom and barely set on top. Spoon strawberries down center of omelet; with spatula, fold omelet in half over filling. Slide omelet onto plate; dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Nutrition Information: 200 calories; 9 g fat; 222 mg cholesterol; 77 mg sodium; 23 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 7 g protein
How do you like your strawberries? What other foods make you feel smart? Comment away!
Photo credit: David Grotto