Can eating more produce help keep you mentally sharp?

One More Reason to Eat Your Veggies

A recent study shows people who eat more flavonols, an antioxidant found in plants, have a slower rate of cognitive decline.

Concerned about cognitive decline as you age? Most of us are, and with good reason. More than 20% of Americans aged 65 and older experience mild cognitive impairment.

But what if a simple dietary change could cut your rate of cognitive decline by a third? That’s the tantalizing promise suggested by a recent study on flavonols in the journal Neurology.

Flavonols are a type of antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables.

“It’s exciting to see evidence that something as simple and empowering as encouraging individuals to enjoy more fruits and vegetables...can stave off cognitive decline," Uma Naidoo, MD, director of nutritional and metabolic psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, told Medscape Medical News.

The flavonol study

Researchers tracked 961 participants, average age of 81, for seven years, recording their diet. They also measured their cognitive scores annually.

Learn about Medicare coverage for dementia.

The result? People who ate the highest amount of flavonols experienced 32% slower cognitive decline than people who ate the least.

What’s more, the people eating the highest amount of flavonols were consuming a fairly modest amount – the equivalent of a cup of spinach or a cup of black tea a day.

Getting more flavonol in your diet

The study identified three flavonols associated with slower cognitive decline:

●      Kaempferol – found in kale, beans, black and green tea, spinach, and broccoli

●      Quercetin – found in tomatoes, kale, apples, tea, blueberries, and arugula

●      Myricetin – found in blueberries, parsley, and green tea

A fourth type of flavonol, isorhamnetin, showed no link to cognitive change.

Find out how colorful foods keep your brain young.

Study caveat

Although the results are impressive, the study doesn’t prove that eating food high in flavonols will keep you mentally sharp. The study shows only an association, not necessarily cause and effect.

However, you already know a diet rich in fruits and vegetables benefits your health in many other ways. People who eat more plant-based diets enjoy lower rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

So as long as you’re trying to consume more produce anyway, why not include a flavonol-filled cup of spinach or some blueberries? One day, your brain may thank you.

Final thoughts

Keeping track of what's good for you can be confusing. But one thing has never changed: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps keep both body and mind healthy - and it tastes pretty good, too! When in doubt, follow doctors' advice to eat the rainbow and fill half your plate with produce before adding your starch and protein.

Medicare can also be pretty confusing. That's why it can help to talk to an experienced Medicare agent who can explain your options and answer your Medicare questions in plain English. Call us toll-free at (888) 992-0738 to discover the ClearMatch difference for yourself.

Or, enter your zip code into our Find a Plan tool to review Medicare plans in your area. It's fast, free, and easy!

Additional resources

Lynn Cicchelli is a writer with over 20 years' worth of experience creating healthy lifestyle content for both print and digital publications. Originally from New York, Lynn currently lives in Connecticut with her husband, stepson, and dog Indiana.


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