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It’s no secret that eating vegetables is good for your health – a plant-based diet has all sorts of benefits, from protecting your heart to helping reduce your risk of prostate or colon cancer. And now researchers have added another benefit to the list: protecting the health of your brain.
A new study in Molecular nutrition and food research found that adding more fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods to your diet could help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The study took place in France and followed more than 800 people over the age of 65 for 12 years. Researchers focused on metabolites – the end products of metabolism – and their effect on cognitive impairment. They found that foods like cocoa, coffee, mushrooms, apples and blueberries had a protective connection with the brain.
The researchers identified an inverse relationship between the metabolites of these plant-based foods and markers of cognitive decline. Basically, this means that the more plant-based metabolites that were present in a subject’s samples, the fewer metabolites associated with cognitive decline were there.
As a result, researchers determined that eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains would be beneficial for those hoping to reduce their dementia risk. These recommendations make diets like the MIND diet and the Mediterranean diet good candidates for people who want to protect their brain as they get older. These healthy and delicious diets contain lots of plant-based foods and are easy enough to follow so you can realistically make them for life. (Read more about how to follow these easy brain health meal plans here.)
On the other hand, the researchers in this study also found that some metabolites have a negative effect on cognition.
“For example, 2-furoylglycine and 3-methylanthine, which are biomarkers for coffee and cocoa consumption, had a protective profile, while saccharin – derived from the consumption of artificial sweeteners – is associated with a harmful role,” said Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, a professor and the study’s lead researcher, in a media release.
Related: What do artificial sweeteners do to your body?
Artificial sweeteners have a mixed reputation. On the one hand, they are useful in preventing blood sugar rises in people who have diabetes. On the other hand, too much of certain sweeteners can affect things like intestinal heat and – according to this new research – also cognitive health. Fans of artificial sweeteners might want to skip If you are concerned about the effect of artificial sweeteners in the long run, choose the saccharin in their something like honey or plain old granulated sugar in your morning cup of coffee. As long as you just spend a little bit and choose naturally sweet things elsewhere during the day (think a piece of fruit or a smoothie for a snack), the little sugar will not hurt. , or replace it with something like honey or agave.
If you are looking for small ways to make your routine plant-based, try Meatless Mondays and skip animal protein for all three meals once a week. You can even give yourself the project of cooking through our cozy winter vegetarian dinners, or take it easy with a mix of plant-based dinners that you can whip up in five steps or less.
Whether you choose to give your routine a New Year’s review or make minor changes, you’re sure to reap the rewards of going plant-based – you can even add a little more time to your longevity or watch your cholesterol level get healthier. Just be sure to add some of the foods that are best for your brain health, including vegan options like beets, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and olive oil.