A study out of Harvard Medical School found that eating more flavonoids may sharpen memory and cognitive functioning.
Flavonoids are naturally occurring plant chemicals found in bright fruits like berries, and vegetables like red cabbage, onions and kale. Other top foods containing flavonoids include chocolate, red wine and tea.
The study, published in Neurology in July 2021, followed over 77,000 middle-aged participants over a 20-year period.
After considering a host of outstanding variables including lifestyle (alcohol consumption, smoking etc.), weight, age, nutrition and health conditions like depression and cardiovascular disease, the researchers focused on daily intake of foods rich in flavonoids.
Compared to participants with the lowest intake of flavonoids, those who consumed foods high in flavonoids were 19 percent less likely to report declines in thinking and memory. Such foods included strawberries and blueberries, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, celery, apples and peppers.
The flavonoid study was observational, which means it doesn’t conclusively prove that cognition will remain sharper in older age simply by consuming more flavonoid-rich foods, but similar, smaller studies have replicated the results.
Not only that, the study took place over decades, which greatly improves its validity.
The researchers suggest aiming for five servings of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables daily, and to eat a ‘rainbow’ of foods for optimal effects as a more colorful diet is better for overall health and thus a sharper mind.
While cognitive decline can lead to dementia - and nearly half of adults aged 60 and over report difficulties with memory - these changes may not be signs of serious illness like Alzheimer’s disease.
Rather, changes in cognitive functioning occur naturally as we age or as a result of other health conditions.
Understanding the difference between age-related memory loss and signs of dementia can help quell fears related to cognitive functioning. Research suggests that staying physically and mentally active is one of the best ways to maintain brain health and slow age-related declines in memory.