WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
It’s likely that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how your diet will impact your risk of dementia as you age, but recent research suggests that by eating two or more servings of fruit each day, you can greatly decrease your risk of death from Alzheimer’s disease.
WHAT WE KNOW
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an umbrella term for the various diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory or other thinking skills that impacts a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.1 Dementia is caused by damage to the brain’s nerve cells (neurons) which leads to deterioration in a person’s capacity to think clearly as well as her/his memory and reasoning skills. It also causes abnormalities in behavior.
Alzheimer’s disease makes up 60-80% of all cases of dementia in Western countries.2 In the United States today, 1 in 9 Americans 65 years and older have Alzheimer’s, and that number jumps to 1 in 3 in adults 85 years and older.1 These statistics are cause for concern because ultimately the disease is fatal, rendering those with Alzheimer’s unable to carry out basic bodily functions such as walking or swallowing.
Researchers recently found that fruit intake can greatly reduce older adults’ risk of Alzheimer’s mortality. In the National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study, researchers analyzed the diets of over 150,000 adults ages 45 and above to explore the impact of diet and exercise on Alzheimer’s mortality.2 Alzheimer’s disease mortality was greatly reduced in Individuals who consumed a few servings of fruit every day. Here are the findings:
- 40% lower Alzheimer’s mortality with 2 servings of fruit daily
- 60% lower Alzheimer’s mortality with 3 or more servings of fruit daily
Regular fruit intake has been associated with lower levels of dementia in other studies. While the exact biological mechanisms behind these findings are not fully understood, researchers speculate that individuals who consume fruit on a daily basis are likely to engage in other healthful dietary practices, including an overall healthy diet, regular physical activity, absence of smoking, and limited alcohol consumption. Examples of such healthy dietary characteristics include lower intake of saturated fat and trans-unsaturated fat, and an increased intake of fish/omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin D, and folate. This type of nutrient intake reflects the Mediterranean diet, which looks like this: 3
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
While diet is a major factor in maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle, there is more to health than the food you eat. However, incorporating fruits and veggies into every meal and snack is an excellent way to lessen your risk of chronic diseases, lose or maintain weight, and feel great overall.
6 Practical Ways to Add More Fruit To Your Day
- Know Your Colors! Each fruit or veggie color helps provide you with an array of various vitamins and nutrients.
- Seasonal Shopping. Shop seasonally to ensure freshness and add variety to your diet all year long.
- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth. Skip the ice cream and candy and satisfy that craving with fruit.
- Enjoy Natural Sweetness. Don’t shy away from fruit because of the sugar content. The sugar in fruit (fructose) and everyday table sugar (sucrose) differ. The Difference Between Fructose and Sucrose
- Make It Easy. Prepare fruits to grab with you as on-the-go snacks. Pack apples, bananas, grapes, orange slices in baggies for quick go-to snacks. Pair them with nuts or low-fat yogurt for a more filling snack.
- Experiment. Try new main dishes that incorporate fruits – try apple corn chili, apple chicken stir fry or mixed greens with mangoes and white beans. Check out our recipe database for inspiration.
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Video Center: Selection. Storage. Preparation.
How Many Cups Do You Need?
Key Nutrients in Fruits & Vegetables
Fruit & Veggie Database