Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Things I'm Learning: No. 1

Did you know that blueberries are a "super fruit"?

From AOL's Life & Style,
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First of all, blueberries are high in vitamin C, a strong antioxidant offering support for the immune system. Blueberries also contain fibre, folate, iron, manganese, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, zinc, copper, B vitamins, vitamin E and silicon. And all in a little tiny berry.

But the main reason blueberries have been getting so much press lately is because the ongoing research on phytochemicals reveals blueberries top the list in antioxidant rich foods.

Blueberries contain a huge list of phytochemicals - phenolic acid, anthocyanins (the pigment that makes them blue), ellagic acid (which may inhibit tumor growth), alpha-carontene, beta-carotene (precursors to vitamin A), caryophyllene (possible anti-inflammatory), chlorogenic acid, eugenol, limonene, thymol (antiseptic and antifungal properties), catechins, tocopherols and tocotrienols (vitamin E family), to name a few. Talk about your nutrient powerhouses!

Blueberries are one of the few edible berries native to North America (along with cherries and conchord grapes). - hello local superfood! They were collected and cultivated by Native Americans, who recognized them for the healthy food that they are and used them to reduce morning sickness, coughs and headaches, and the leaves to make a blood purifying tea. They also used blueberries to make preserves to dye clothing. Also, blueberry juice was a staple of Civil War soldiers who drank it to stave off scurvy.

And research is showing blueberries to be good for the brain, too. Animal research using blueberry extract found it improved balance, coordination and memory - even in cases of Alzheimer's. Further studies have shown that "blueberries have a rejuvenating affect on memory-related nerve function, including the stimulation of new memory cells to form."

And let us not forget "the Big C". One study has found that blueberries have preventative effects on prostate cancer and liver cancer. The study shows the sterol compounds in blueberries inhibit cancer in the first stage of the disease, while their anthocyanin pigments can stop the proliferation of cancer in the later stages.

And like cranberries, blueberries contain compounds that stop the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections from adhering to the walls of the bladder. There are claims the fruit is also beneficial for hypoglycemia, tinnitus, intestinal upset, eye disorders and varicose veins.

But for many people, all this is secondary to the fact that blueberries are delicious. Eat them by themselves, in baked goods, in fruit salads or with yogurt for dessert. Just don't wash them until you are ready to eat them as the moisture can promote the growth of mold.

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Why does this matter?

If you read the above article, you'll notice that there's a paragraph where it talks about how blueberry extract has been found to improve balance, coordination, and memory. For someone who is at risk for a disease that effects balance, coordination, and memory this is important stuff! Without trying to explain a process that I don't fully grasp, HD more or less produces something which attacks the brain and kills neurons resulting in personality changes, decreasing motor skills, etc. (commonly referred to as the "Triad": Motor, Cognative, & Psychiatric.

Several studies have been completed on how blueberries affect those with Alzheimer's (a progressive neurological disease that results in loss of neurons and dementia). From those studies, HDLighthouse.com suggests that a serving equivalent to 1 cup of blueberries a day can actually promote the growth of new neurons in the brain! Since HD is also related to loss of neurons, it's exciting to find out that there are things that can be done to help generate new ones!

While I don't know if I have HD or not, there are things like eating blueberries that I can do help cultivate a healthy and strong brain. It has been suggested that heeding information like that in the above article could postpone the symptoms of HD for one to two years - which, granted, is not a cure - but every day helps!

What if I'm not at risk for a progressive neurological disease?

The studies have also shown that the effects blueberries have on everyone is beneficial - they help keep your mind healthy and young, and can delay the common cognitive signs of aging such as short term memory loss! Mmm.... blueberries....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not Much

I don't have very many exciting things going on right now. The weather is cold, very cold. It has been dark a lot this past week. We've finished (for now) our basement renos, so I should put a picture or two up of what that looks like. I'm waiting for my sister to have her baby - she is technically "full term" now, though she's not quite at 40 weeks. However, if baby came today, baby could probably go home right away! That's super exciting.

Brother Dave came back to Canada for a few weeks and was at our place for a few days last week - we were both sick, so we both lazed around and watched "The I.T. Crowd" and "Flight of the Concords" all day. It was great. :) He's got my car right now for his adventures around the province. He comes back to us on Friday sometime, I think, and then on Saturday morning he leaves us yet again for Korea. Stupid Korea. Taking my brother away for another year.

My Redeemer students have been in Oxford for two weeks now, and I wish I was there as well. Every winter I get the travel bug. Not to go just anywhere - but to go back to England. I wonder if that will ever fade?

There are so many babies coming in the next three months, and I'm so excited to meet them all! Marya, Kenny, and Hilary are all due around the same time, which is in around 3 weeks. Then Michelle and Tiffany join in. Five new babies to love!

This is a pretty disjointed post, but I'm going to leave it at that for now. My mind is not in a writing mode, but I thought it was about time for an update. Ciao!