Have you ever looked at a plate of food and thought "that looks pretty beige"? Whether it's a platter of fried chicken and chips, or your favorite Pad Thai or greasy take-out, guilty pleasure foods are often monotone in color, even if they do taste exceptionally satisfying.
You might be tempted to whip up a colorful smoothie to offset the damage – and that can be a pretty good way of packing lots of micronutrients into your diet (check out our list of the best blenders for more). However, there's no reason to stop there: opting for a colorful plate with every meal can ensure you incorporate flavanoids into your diet, which can help protect your body and brain.
Research from the American Academy of Neurology (opens in new tab) found that incorporating a colorful plate can have protective effects on your brain, guarding it against diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia. The study recruited nearly 50,000 different women with an average age of 48, and almost 28,000 men with an average age of 51. It then followed the research over 20 years, and discovered some surprising results.
People who ate a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids, such as fruit like strawberries, oranges and apples, or vegetables like peppers, may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline.
Harvard University's Dr Walter Willett said: "There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older. Our results are exciting because they show that making simple changes to your diet could help prevent cognitive decline."
As well as incorporating the best nutrition for seniors (for example, we've got a list of the best vitamins for women over 50), having a colorful plate full of flavanoids can also have an anti-inflammatory effect, according to a separate study (opens in new tab). Chronic inflammation is closely related to age-related diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, type-2 diabetes risk and cancer, so a daily diet full of anti-inflammatories can help curb these lifestyle illnesses.
More ways to tackle cognitive decline
One study (opens in new tab) followed a group of 2,000 men in Wales across 35 years, and found that it wasn't just about diet: a generally healthy lifestyle can help to combat the onset of degenerative brain diseases.
The five pillars the researchers highlighted – regular exercise, not smoking, moderate alcohol intake, healthy body weight and healthy diet – were instrumental in slowing or preventing the onset of these diseases. Someone who was considered to follow four out of those five was up to 60% less likely to develop dementia.
It's never too late to start. Reducing your alcohol intake, keeping a colorful plate (as mentioned above) and getting regular, low-impact exercise, such as walking to lose weight or 30 minutes on one of the best exercise bikes, are all fantastic ways to stay healthy, active and reduce cognitive decline.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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