grapes

  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.

    Ouch!

    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. One more reason to drink beer

    When it comes to booze and heart health, wine usually gets all the attention -- but it doesn't quite deserve it.

    Sure, wine is great for you -- but it's not the only healthy adult beverage in the bar.

    In fact, you can get just about all the benefits of wine and then some from plain old beer -- and the latest research confirms that a cold brew is every bit as good for your heart as a glass of red.

    Researchers from Italy's Fondazione di Ricerca e Cura say their survey of 200,000 people from around the world finds that regular beer drinkers have a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease than people who don't drink booze at all.

    That's precisely the same decrease in heart risk enjoyed by wine drinkers -- but it's coming from hops and barley instead of grapes, according to the study in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

    And that's not all beer can do for you -- not even close. Beer is also rich in potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and key antioxidants. It can help lower the inflammation linked to heart disease and other serious problems, and raise levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol by as much as 12 percent.

    Beer is also the single best source of dietary silicon around, which can help protect your bones as you age.

    One study even found that dieters who drink beer can lose more weight -- proving that the so-called "beer belly" is a myth. If you see a drinker with a big belly, take a look at what he's eating -- because that's almost certainly the real reason for his keg-sized gut.

    Of course, whether you drink wine or beer, you'll only get the benefits if you make your habit a moderate one and cut yourself off before you drink too much (and if you have to wonder if you've had too much, you've probably reached that point).

    Keep it to a glass or two a night, and you'll enjoy both the benefits and the taste.

    So go ahead -- pop the cork or crack open a frosty one. It's good for you.

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