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A Neuroscientist's Favorite Brain-Healthy Snack Could Already Be In Your Fridge

blackberries being topped on an oatmeal breakfast
Image by NATAŠA MANDIĆ / Stocksy
September 25, 2020

You've likely heard it dozens of times: One of the most powerful ways to enhance your brain health is to quite literally feed it healthy nutrients. Specifically, your brain needs antioxidants to function at its best. "In order to protect our brains, we need to get antioxidants," neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. "And the only way to do it is through our diets, which is why any food that is high in antioxidant nutrients will benefit your brain." 

In terms of which antioxidant-rich foods make the cut, well, Mosconi has a thing for brightly colored berries—particularly tart and sweet blackberries. 

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Why blackberries are the best brain-healthy snack. 

"Of all the organs in the body, the brain is the one that suffers most from oxidative stress," Mosconi previously writes for mbg. That's exactly why it needs antioxidants to fight free radicals and reduce chronic inflammation. And while plenty of foods contain famed antioxidants (spinach, turmeric, and dark chocolate, to highlight a few) antioxidants from berries have been specifically shown to enhance neurotransmission (aka, how brain neurons talk to each other), as well as neuroplasticity1—which can both affect cognitive decline over time. 

OK, so berries are a worthwhile addition to your diet—noted. But when it comes to the different types of phytonutrient powerhouses, blueberries tend to receive most of the hype (they're also fairly low in calories and low on the glycemic index). But according to Mosconi, we should be eating more blackberries: "Everybody goes for blueberries, but blackberries actually contain more antioxidants than blueberries," she notes. 

Specifically, blackberries have incredibly high amounts of vitamins C and K, as well as folate—all of which can help manage that oxidative stress and support brain health. In fact, one research review shows the antioxidants in blackberries can even help prevent age-related memory loss1

It's a case for making blackberries the star of your fruit plate, that's for sure. But if you're looking for a cozy, antioxidant-rich recipe, Mosconi recommends snagging some blackberry butter. "You can have it in winter," she says (or, say, during fall's early days). "We get it at a farmers market. You can also find it sometimes in health food stores." A simple spread on toast, and you've got a sweet, slightly tart snack that's simultaneously brain-healthy. 

The takeaway. 

In terms of brain-supporting produce, blackberries top this neuroscientist's list. That's not to say you should renounce all fruits in favor of blackberries—each berry has its own impressive nuances, mind you—but Mosconi says it's high time these tart drupelets get the credit they deserve—especially when it comes to brain health. 

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