Lana Camiel
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Berries, the ultimate brain food!

The first couple of weekends in June always feel super special to me.  

You might think I am a bit strange, but this is the time when strawberries appear at the farmers’ market where I live.  

When I was younger some of my most vivid memories of summer family vacations include train rides to some far away destinations like Caucasus and Crimea.  On the way back, my mom would always get a large bucket of berries at one of the local train stops.  

Upon arriving home, our tiny apartment would be converted into a jam making factory.  I remember offering my help by licking all the utensils that came in contact with sugary sweet berry syrups.  Just last week my mom reminded me that I insisted on bringing cherry preserves with us when we immigrated.  

Here, in the US, when I became an adult I began appreciating myself the benefits of getting seasonal local produce.  

A colleague at work became my inspiration for trying new and interesting recipes, and one of my best friends encouraged to explore local farms.  

From last summer, I still have a couple of small unopened jars of strawberry ginger, blueberry lavender and peach cardamom jams. That is how my personal ‘jam’ adventure began.

I am looking for new recipes and ideas, and this post is an invitation to share your favorites.

In return, I’d like to offer you 3 possible reasons to continue including berries into your diet.

1. Memory and cognition as we age

Berries, as most bright colored foods, are full of antixodants (or so-called polyphenols).  Antioxidants are known for their ability to keep your memory sharp (especially spatial memory).  They are also helpful to enhance the nervous system functioning.  Even short-term use of these compounds can produce beneficial effects.  And if you are still young, neuron plasticity is what helps you to learn better.

2. Flu prevention

Antiviral effects of various berries have been explored recently.  The degree of benefit varies quite a bit depending on the berry consumed (blueberries, cranberries, black currants and more).  I am fascinated but not completely surprised by this direction of the research.  After all, another berry (called elderberry) is considered to be highly antiviral.

3. Cancer prevention

This interesting research looks at blueberries and Japanese berries Natsuhase and Shashanbo evaluating their cancer preventive effects (in leukemia cells).

In addition to nutritive properties, berries are known for their cardiovascular and circulatory protection, anti-inflammatory effects, eye benefits, enhancement of insulin sensitivity, anti-allergy effects and much more.

I am often bothered by the amount of sugar you need to preserve berries in jams.  

Some of the reasonable alternatives are to freeze them, use honey, or consume as much as you can fresh during the summer.  These are some low-sugar recipes I’ve been exploring. 

Questions: What’s your favorite berry recipe or jam? Is this a classic recipe or does it have unusual ingredients?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author Lana Camiel

I’m a college professor, drug information pharmacist and herbalist. I teach young professionals and students how to be less stressed and more focused with the right herbs and food.

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