An apple a day may keep the doctor away. But when it comes to the smooth functioning of the vascular system, a cup of blueberries might be even better, according to a study published March 25th in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers at the King’s College London Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine in the United Kingdom found that eating the equivalent of one cup of wild blueberries a day improved measures of arterial stiffness, a key indicator of vascular health. The study also showed that regular consumption of this superfood boosts cognitive functioning and lowers blood pressure.
Participants in the double-blind, placebo-controlled trial were given either 26g of freeze-dried wild blueberry powder (302 mg anthocyanins) or placebo (0 mg anthocyanins) for 12 weeks. The researchers measured endothelial function by monitoring several key biomarkers, including flow-mediated dilation (FMD), cognitive function, arterial stiffness, blood pressure (BP), cerebral blood flow (CBF). They looked at the gut microbiome and these other hemodynamic parameters both at baseline and after 12 weeks of consumption.
The group eating the blueberry powder had a statistically significant improvement in flow mediated dilation and systolic blood pressure (with the latter decreasing 3.59 mmHG). They also had faster reaction times and improved short term memory compared to their cognitive tests at baseline. While no changes on cerebral blood flow or gut microbiota were found, the test participants had a much higher concentration of polyphenols in their system compared to the placebo group.
The researchers concluded that regular consumption of polyphenols could help reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) and potentially improve memory and executive functioning in older adults at risk of cognitive decline.
Beets, which are high in nitric oxide, can also help improve vascular functioning. Add some nutrient-dense (but neutral tasting) spinach and some fresh squeezed orange juice and ginger to brighten up the earthy flavor.
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup roasted beets (if using canned, rinse first to remove excess sodium)
1/2 whole orange (juiced)
1 tablespoon monkfuit sweetener
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Handful of spinach
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
Add all the liquids to a Vitamix or other high speed food processor, then add solid ingredients. If the mix is too thick, add water. If you like it a bit more sweet, add another teaspoon of Monkfruit sweetener, which won’t spike blood sugar.