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Your Brain on Plant Chemicals

Improve your mental well-being with certain plant foods, says recent research.

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Flavonoids and Alzheimer's

If you want to stay as sharp as a whip, be sure to top your morning cereal with berries and wash it down with a steamy mug of tea.

Based on data collected from 2,800 older adults enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, those with higher intakes of foods and drinks containing flavonoids—such as berries, pears, apples, dark chocolate and green tea—were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias over 20 years than those who consumed fewer of these antioxidants. This is according to research conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

For instance, low intake of a class of flavonoids called anthocyanins, found abundantly in items like blueberries, was associated with a fourfold greater risk of developing dementia. One reason for the brain-benefiting powers of these plant-based chemicals could be that flavonoids work to lessen memory-sapping inflammation. One of the best ways to load up on flavonoids is to eat a rainbow of plant foods daily.

See also: Plant-Based Foods Curb Chronic Disease

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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