1. Berries boost your brain

    The only downside of berries is the cost: My local supermarket was selling blueberries for $4.99 a pint the other day.


    But while the price might sting, it's worth a little pain in the wallet to get your hands on some -- because ounce for ounce, berries are unmatched by anything else in the produce aisle.

    I'm sure you already know about the famous antioxidants in berries, which can help protect you from the free radicals that are always trying to undermine your body.

    And now, a new review of the research shows how berries can actually supercharge your brain and improve the way your neurons communicate. That adds up to better motor control and cognition and lower levels of dangerous inflammation -- all from a handful of delicious blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or cranberries.

    Grapes and blueberries in particular have been proven in studies to help improve the brain function in seniors, especially those already suffering from some impairment, according to the review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

    Of course, none of this is all that new or surprising (it's a review of existing research, after all). An earlier study, for example, found that the polyphenolics in berries help the cells that clean up and recycle the toxic proteins that accumulate in the brain with age.

    If that's not a good enough reason to boost your berry intake, consider this: Another new study shows that blueberries -- along with apples -- can slash your risk of diabetes.

    Researchers say people who eat two or more servings of blueberries a week -- as well as those who eat five apples a week -- have a 23 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

    This was based on a food frequency questionnaire, and we know they're not exactly the most reliable form of research... so let's not get too excited.

    But plenty of other more reliable studies back the benefits of berries. And that's especially true of blueberries, which are so rich in nutrients they're a superfood in a class of their own.

    For all that, $4.99 a pint is a bargain -- because these little beauties are worth their weight in gold.

  2. Berries cut hypertension risk

    It's not often you find something super-sweet that's also super-good for you... so consider this permission to indulge in delicious berries.

    Especially strawberries and blueberries.

    These fruits pack a terrific antioxidant punch in a tiny little package--and now, a new study finds they can also lower your risk of high blood pressure.

    Researchers looked at data on more than 150,000 people, including 87,242 women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study II, 46,672 women who participated in Nurses' Health Study I, and 23,043 men who were in the Health Professionals Follow-up study.

    Over 14 years of follow-ups, the researchers found that those who ate the most foods containing the antioxidant anthocyanin--found especially in those blueberries and strawberries--were 8 percent less likely to come down with hypertension than those who ate the smallest amount.

    The researchers say the benefits of berries held after adjusting for risk factors such as family history, weight, diet and physical activity levels... but fell apart as the volunteers reached the age of 60.

    And that, they say, is because berries can only take you so far--if you eat nothing but junk, hypertension will catch up to you eventually.

    Berries might delay it, but they can't stop it.

    One more note on this: Not all berries are created equal--and some "berries" aren't berries at all.

    A recent investigation by the Consumer Wellness Center found that the supposed berries used in cereals and snacks are often just sugar, flavorings and artificial colors dressed up to look like berries.

    In reality, they have all the health benefits of a Cap'n Crunch Berry.

    General Mills actually has the audacity to sell a cereal called Total Blueberry Pomegranate... which contains neither blueberries nor pomegranates.

    Of course, there's an easy way to sort the real berries from the phony ones: Just don't eat any packaged foods in the first place. If you can't pick your berries yourself, get them from the produce aisle.

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