WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New research shows that while we cannot entirely prevent dementia, regularly eating carotene-rich fruits and veggies is associated with higher cognitive function in old age.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Dementia is a term that includes various diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory or other thinking skills that impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.1 Dementia is caused by damage to the brain’s nerve cells (neurons) which causes deterioration in the capacity to think clearly, memory and reasoning skills, and causes abnormalities in behavior. In developed countries, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) makes up 60-80% of all cases of dementia.2 At this point in time, there is no cure for AD and the main factors that increase a person’s chance of developing AD – being older and carrying susceptibility genes – cannot be changed. Prevention of age-related cognitive decline through diet is a key area of research.
Beta-carotene gives fruits and veggies their rich orange and yellow colors and has been demonstrated to prevent cognitive decline, though studies are inconsistent. There are over 600 known carotenoids, however, and it is thought that perhaps carotenoids as a category may help lessen the blow of aging on mental health and cognitive function.
A recently published study documented the intakes of carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables in middle-aged adults.3 After 13 years, the adults completed six psychological tests. The study showed that participants who had the greatest intakes of orange and green-colored fruits and vegetables, vegetable oils, and soups had significantly better episodic memory, executive functioning and semantic fluency in older age. These results held true regardless of any other lifestyle factors such as sociodemographic attributes, lifestyle characteristics, or health status.
If you’re looking to keep your memory sharp as an older adult, one of the best things you can do is eat carotene-rich fruits and vegetables. You might be surprised to find that many carotene-rich fruits and vegetables are not orange or red in color because the green chlorophyll in some plants (like spinach, kale and other green veggies) masks these orange, red, and yellow pigments. Our advice? Fill your diet with a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables to fuel your body with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In addition, aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies during every meal and snack!
- Sweet potatoes
- Goji berries
- Turnip, dandelion, beet, mustard and collard greens
- Fresh thyme
- Romaine Lettuce
- Winter squash
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