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Foods Seniors Can Consume For Brain Health

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Food & Nutrition, Lifestyle & Wellness

A study has revealed that people who incorporate a diverse range of fruits and vegetables in significant amounts into their diet during middle age have a reduced risk of experiencing cognitive decline in their later years.

The research indicated that individuals who consumed an average of approximately 520g of fruits and vegetables per day were 23% less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment than those who consumed an average of 165g per day.

Dr. Koh Woon Puay, Professor of the Healthy Longevity Translation Research Programme at the National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, spearheaded a study that discovered an exciting correlation between cognitive decline and consuming fruits and vegetables. 

The research also emphasised that merely increasing the quantity consumed is insufficient; incorporating a more comprehensive range of fruits and vegetables into one’s diet is equally vital for enhancing overall well-being, as stated by Dr Koh, who served as the corresponding author for this study.

In March, a groundbreaking study was recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition. This study is unique as it is the first to explore the diversity of fruits and vegetables consumed, disregarding the amount consumed.

The researchers relied on data collected from the Singapore Chinese Health Study, which documented the dietary habits of more than 63,000 Chinese Singaporeans aged 45 to 74 between 1993 and 1998.

In the study, 14 fruits and 25 vegetables were recognised as popular food choices and were included. After twenty years, a follow-up interview was conducted to assess cognitive function. The final study population consisted of 16,737 participants. 

According to the study, individuals who included an average of 10 different types of fruit each month had a 22% lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who consumed only four types.

Those who incorporated 22 different types of vegetables into their diet each month experienced a 13% decrease in risk compared to individuals who consumed an average of only 13 types. 

Fruits were further divided based on their hypoglycemic index, whereby low-index fruits resulted in a more gradual elevation in blood sugar levels than high-index fruits. 

The vegetable categories comprised light green vegetables, dark green vegetables, calciferous vegetables, yellow vegetables, tomato products, and mushrooms.

According to research findings, consuming fruits with a low glycemic index, such as apples and peaches, along with vegetables from the mushroom and light green vegetable categories, has been linked to a decreased risk of cognitive decline. 

Although the study was conducted solely on Chinese Singaporeans, Dr. Koh asserted that these results are universally relevant across different ethnicities. She highlighted that the protective effect on brain function is not specific to the Chinese population but can be attributed to biological factors. The presence of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables contributes to preserving cognitive abilities.

Dr Koh stated that the results aligned with previous research conducted in Europe, the United States, and Japan, concluding that consuming more fruits and vegetables is linked to a decreased risk of cognitive decline in later life. Dr Chan Tat Hon, who was not involved in the study, expressed his desire for the findings to inspire Singaporeans to alter their eating habits.

 As a doctor who educates patients on dietary changes to lower the chances of chronic diseases, he emphasised that this study provides practical steps that can be taken right away to mitigate the risk of cognitive decline.


Advice for Choosing Nutritious Foods as You Age:

 A nourishing meal should consist of Lean sources of protein (such as poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes), Assorted fruits and vegetables (including those with orange, red, green, and purple hues), Whole grains (such as brown rice and whole wheat pasta) Low-fat dairy products (milk and its substitutes).

Remember to select foods with high fibre and low sodium or salt content. Additionally, seek foods rich in Vitamin D, such as salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, fortified dairy products, and other options. Look at the nutrition facts label: the most nutritious foods are whole foods. 

Opt for tea, coffee, and water, as they are the most favourable options. Limit your intake of sugary and salty beverages.

Superfoods, packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, are essential for seniors’ overall health and vitality. These nutrient powerhouses play a crucial role in promoting longevity and combating the effects of ageing. 

 Additionally, apples provide potassium to lower blood pressure and offer antioxidants like vitamin C. By incorporating apples into your diet, you can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and asthma while improving lung function and aiding in weight loss.

Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and essential vitamins like A, C, B9 (folate), and K. These nutrients are crucial for maintaining the health of your eyes, red blood cells, immune system, bones, and tissues. Broccoli has been shown to have potential anti-cancer properties against liver, breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

It has been shown that individuals who drink coffee (regular or decaf) are less likely to die from heart and respiratory diseases, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections. 

Coffee consumption may provide protective effects against breast cancer in women and other forms of cancer. Additionally, research indicates that consuming two cups or less of coffee per day during middle age can significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to consuming higher amounts.

Eggs: The yellow part holds vital nutrients that can decrease the likelihood of developing cataracts and age-related eye degeneration. 

Garlic: Consuming two cloves of garlic helps prevent heart diseases by slowing arterial hardening; this herb is also known to combat inflammation and cartilage damage linked to arthritis. 

Greek Yogurt: A serving of low-fat or nonfat Greek yoghurt has twice as much protein while containing half the sugar in regular non-Greek yoghurt; it is also abundant in probiotics beneficial for digestion compared to American-style yoghurt.

Research suggests that consuming a diverse range of fruits and vegetables significantly during middle age can profoundly affect cognitive health later in life. These findings highlight the importance of making conscious choices about our diet for physical well-being and maintaining mental acuity as we age. 

Seniors need to prioritise their health and consciously eat a nutritious diet. Older adults can enhance their overall well-being and reduce the risk of chronic diseases by consuming a well-balanced meal plan that includes fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Start eating a healthy diet to age well!

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Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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