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Tea, Fruit & Vegetables Can Keep Your Brain Sharp, Study Says

A simple snack might be the key to fortifying and supporting your cognitive function.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

If you want to keep your brain healthy, impressively astute, and wonderfully sharp, then you can take various cognitive function-boosting steps that fortify your brain health in order to do just that. That includes using your dietary habits to keep your brain in tip-top shape, according to a new study.

In the study that was published recently in Neurology, researchers took a look at the information that came from the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP). Those involved in MAP were 960 Chicago-based adults who were an average age of 81 years old and didn't have dementia when the study started. They were also primarily female and white, while all participants lived in retirement communities and senior public housing.

Those involved participated for around seven years. During this time, they filled out an annual questionnaire and completed tests that provided data on their education level, physical activity, mental-based activities (such as reading or challenging themselves to games), cognitive abilities, and memory. They also noted their dietary habits, which is how the researchers split them into various groups based on much of the food they ate contained flavonols.

The results showed that the group who consumed the highest level of flavonols—which was around 15 milligrams per day or about one serving of leafy greens—had a 32% decrease in the rate of cognitive decline compared to those who were consuming the lowest amount of flavonols.

Beyond that, the researchers analyzed the effect of different kinds of flavonols, such as kaempferol—which you can get by eating kale, spinach, broccoli, beans, and drinking tea; quercetin—which is in kale, tomatoes, apples, and tea; and myricetin—found in kale, tomatoes, oranges, and wine). Consuming more kaempferol was associated with a 32% slower rate of cognitive decline compared to the lowest group while eating more myricetin had a 31% slower rate, and more quercetin was connected to a 30% slower rate.

assorted fruits and vegetables

"A diet diverse in fruits and vegetables is critical for both cognitive and physical functioning," lead investigator Thomas Holland, MD, MS, reportedly explained to Medscape Medical News.

"The study is further confirmation of the power of nutritious food,"Amy Davis, RD, LDN, tells Eat This, Not That! "Learning that foods high in flavanols can preserve cognitive function over time is a compelling reason to include these foods in our diets daily!"

Davis also delves into the benefits of flavonols, saying that they "are a type of flavonoid that are particularly high in antioxidants and are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables." She adds that "the anti-inflammatory nature of flavonols may decrease the amount or duration of neuroinflammation." On top of that, "the antioxidant properties of flavonols may prevent or reduce oxidative stress."

As for how often people should aim to consume food or beverages with flavonols, Davis says, "They are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, so including them at most meals will help individuals get a beneficial amount of flavonols daily."

Desirée O
Desirée O is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle, food, and nutrition news among other topics. Read more about Desirée