You may think the old saying “we eat with our eyes first” could be referring to drooling over a decadent chocolate dessert or a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs. But we’re here to say that fruits and vegetables can be enticing, too. Loading up your daily diet with brightly-hued produce can have major health perks and help ward off Alzheimer’s and dementia. New research suggests that eating yellow and orange colored fruits and veggies specifically, can significantly help to protect your brain health as you age!
A recent study published in Neurology wanted to see how a flavonoid-rich diet could slow cognitive decline in adults. Flavonoids are nutritional compounds that are naturally found in fruits and vegetables such as apples, strawberries, and celery. These compounds have been linked with helping to prevent inflammation in the brain that could lead to memory loss. “There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older,” study co-author Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, said in a statement.
Researchers asked participants to complete several food frequency questionnaires over a 20 year period to better understand this connection. Participants also had to assess their own cognitive abilities including whether they had trouble remembering recent events and if they could memorize a short list of items.
The study authors found that those who consumed orange and yellow colored flavonoid-rich foods including bell peppers, bananas, and grapefruit were associated with a 38 percent lower risk of cognitive decline. They noted that this is the equivalent to three to four years younger in age. Also, fruits like blueberries, blackberries, and cherries were able to slow down brain aging by 24 percent. Researchers mentioned that these three fruits are packed with anthocyanins, which is a type of flavonoid that wards off chronic inflammation throughout the body.
This led to the study authors emphasizing why these colorful fruits and veggies are must-have additions to your daily diet. “It’s never too late to start [eating these foods] because we saw those protective relationships whether people were consuming the flavonoids in their diet 20 years ago, or if they started incorporating them more recently,” Willett added.
At the store, you’ll find plenty of orange and yellow colored produce to work into your regular eating habits. Try eating root veggies such as carrots or golden beets raw in a salad or steamed for dinnertime. Hearty in-season picks like sweet potatoes and butternut squash make for yummy sides to go along with your holiday spread, especially if they’re roasted to caramelized perfection. Even bell peppers come in yellow and orange varieties, so why not a mouthwatering weeknight stir-fry or a sizzling fajita dish?
Taking a colorful approach to the foods you buy can really pay off in the long run to ward off brain aging for good!