New Research Shows That Eating Foods High in Flavonoids Can Keep Your Mind Sharp Over Time

We all know that fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet. And while filling up on foods like peppers, oranges, strawberries, and blueberries can help support virtually all elements of your physical health, a new study published in the American Academy of Neurology journal finds that they are also beneficial for your mental wellness. The reason? These snacks are all high in flavonoids, which can ultimately help lessen the risk of cognitive decline, CNN reports.

woman eating bowl of strawberries

knape / Getty Images

Dr. Walter Willett, the professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, professor of medicine at Harvard University, and study author, explained that flavonoids are compounds that are filled with antioxidants; they are typically found in most fruits and vegetables. To discover how flavonoids improve brain sharpness, Dr. Willett and his team looked into data from 75,000 participants, who were 50 years old (on average) at the start of the study and are now in their 70s and 80s. Over the course of a 25-year timespan, the researchers analyzed participants' questionnaires at four-year intervals and found that those who ate 600 milligrams (which translates to 0.02 ounces) of flavonoids every day had a 20 percent reduced risk of cognitive decline—as opposed to people who consumed just 150 milligrams (or 0.005 ounces) of these antioxidants on a daily basis.

Related: The Most Vitamin-Packed Fruits and Vegetables to Eat During Cold Season

According Dr. Willett, it's never too early to begin eating a flavonoid-rich diet; he explained that brains start declining starting in our 20s and 30s, but that reduction in cognitive function isn't noticeable until around 70 years of age. Thanks to foods filled with flavonoids, that deterioration should be less severe, since their anti-inflammatory nature helps prevent damage to the blood supply, which is "an important contributor to cognitive decline," he added.

In addition to eating foods high in flavonoids, like strawberries, which have nearly 180 milligrams (0.006 ounces) per a 100-gram (three-and-a-half-ounces) serving, or apples, which have 113 milligrams (0.003 ounces) in each serving, Dr. Willett noted that it is important to prioritize a well-balanced lifestyle, which should be full of physical exercise and free from smoking. "Nutrition has a lot to do with our cognitive health, and the choices that we make today concerning the things we consume have a big role to play later in life in protecting our brains," he said.