Did you know that when it comes to forgetfulness and brain health, a diet bursting with colour could be your secret weapon?
A new Harvard study has found that a diet rich in flavonoids – the natural plant chemicals responsible for the bright and beautiful colours in fruit and veg – may actually help reduce forgetfulness and mild confusion, a common part of ageing.
The US study looked at the diets of more than 77,000 men and women aged over 30 years. It found that those who ate the most flavonoids were 19% less likely to report trouble with memory and thinking, than those who ate the least flavonoids. To put it simply, they had healthier brains.
Many flavonoid-rich foods such as oranges, capsicum, celery, strawberries, grapefruits, citrus juices, apples, pears, and bananas helped to keep the brain sharp. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and raw spinach got particularly high marks when it came to fighting off age-related forgetfulness. We’d say that’s a good reason to whip up a batch of crispy Brussels sprouts.
Eat the rainbow
Sanitarium dietitian Charlotte Moor said the study showed the benefits of eating a flavonoid-rich diet from an early age, especially before your 50s.
“Forgetfulness and confusion are frustrating realities for many older Kiwis,” Charlotte said.
“Diet plays a big role in ageing well and living well. Loading our plates with lots of colourful fruit and veggies is a tasty win/win. It is good for our memory, our brains, and it also helps prevent many lifestyle diseases.”
Charlotte said we should all be aiming to include two serves of fruit and five serves of veg in our diets each day. And mix it up!
Colourful fruit and veggies have more benefits than just for brain health. For example, red fruits and vegetables can protect against cancer and help reduce the risk of heart disease. A high intake of lycopene, found in red fruit and veg, has also been linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
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Lutein, found in orange and yellow fruit and veg, has been shown to help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
Colour my world
“Increasing the flavonoids in your diet each day is easy – and who doesn’t like a little colour in their life?” Charlotte said.
So, add a rainbow fruit salad to this week’s menu, or celebrate the warmer weather with a delicious, veggie-packed salad.
Get the little ones involved. Use this Eat a Rainbow chart to help you get the benefits of colourful foods and teach the kids about fresh fruit and vegetables and the five colour groups.