Blueberries can help men avoid erectile dysfunction — and maybe stay alive longer.
Erections often become unreliable as men age, bothering up to half of all middle-aged and older men. Exercise and eating fruits and vegetables can help.
The natural chemicals that give fruit and vegetables their bright colors are good for the heart — and provide a host of benefits.
Among Americans, the most popular foods containing these especially helpful chemicals are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears, and citrus products. So make that a reason to encourage the men in your life to put some blueberries in their yogurt and go for a run or bike ride.
The latest evidence came from a study of more than 25,000 middle-aged men who were followed over a decade. All of the men were in good health at the beginning of the research, but more than a third reported new problems with erections over the decade.
By surveying the men on their diets and erectile dysfunction (ED) every four years, researchers concluded that those who ate more fruit were 14 percent less likely to have ED. Anthocyanins (found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, black plums, eggplant, and red onions) and flavanones and flavones (found in citrus fruits) were the most helpful. Combining exercise with eating these colorful foods reduced the risk of ED by 21 percent, observed lead researcher Aedin Cassidy, who studies and teaches nutrition at Norwich Medical School in Great Britain.
ED is an early sign of heart problems. But it can also be a big motivator for change, says Eric Rimm, MD, a study author and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. It makes sense that men would rather think about having a good sex life than worry about a heart attack.
Eating berries and other bright red or blue produce may be a good way to promote longevity in general. For example, a 16-year study of a group of elderly American men found that eating more anthocyanins was tied to stronger lungs. The lungs begin to decline in the last third of life, and weaker lungs seem to shorten our lives.
Blueberries are a reasonable source of fiber, which is an important part of a diet to protect your heart. They’re also full of manganese, which helps your body process cholesterol, carbohydrates, and protein.
Another larger study found that both men and women who ate more anthocyanins were less likely to gain weight in the middle of their lives.
Choose red over white wine and red over white onions to get more of this natural boost. For more tips, check this list for foods containing the most anthocyanins.
Avoid juices, even though they’re colorful, because they’re a fast shot of sugar and associated with weight gain. Instead of orange juice, vary between oranges and blueberries with your breakfast.
A good way to get berries is to buy and eat them fresh in season and freeze some as well. In-season fruit have the most nutrients. However, you can add frozen berries to oatmeal in the morning and microwave it without losing all the benefits. There are pesticides on commercial blueberries, both non-organic and organic, so wash them well. Microwaving may not ideal, but it’s not a good reason to skip eating these fruits.
May 31, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN