Memory Care Study Links Colorful Vegetables to Healthier Minds
As children, our parents always told us to eat our vegetables. Later in life, it’s no surprise that piece of advice still holds true — especially for those trying to maintain healthy bodies and healthy minds. Now, new data from memory care researchers have shown that colorful vegetables are linked to improved cognitive function in older adults.
“At Visiting Angels, we try to stress how essential healthy eating is to home care and memory care,” says Larry Meigs, CEO and President of Visiting Angels. “These studies really drive that home. More important, they give us a better sense of what specific vegetables help most in keeping older minds sharp.”
Studies Say Carotenoids Help with Memory Care
According to two recent studies, a particular type of compound found in colorful fruits and vegetables is linked with cognitive health in senior-aged individuals. This type of compound is called a carotenoid, and it’s found most often in bright red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables. Think peppers, squash, pumpkins, carrots, oranges, and tomatoes. Carotenoids are also plentiful in certain green vegetables, like kale and peas.
Researchers identified two specific types of carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, that were studied for their effect on brain health. In a study of adults aged 65-88, it was shown that older adults with high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet had healthier, quicker minds. Seniors who ate carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables were able to perform mental puzzles with less mental strain than others who ate lower amounts of these foods.
Making Vegetables a Bigger Part of Memory Care
Of course, seniors will only benefit from colorful vegetables if they are eating a vegetable-rich diet. That presents a challenge, since seniors who are used to eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables are often resistant to adding more plants to their breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
For memory care professionals and family caregivers, introducing more fruits and vegetables into an elderly person’s diet usually requires smart strategy. One of the best steps you can take is to look up a range of recipes online. While dips, sauces, oils, and salts can negatively impact the health value of fruits and veggies, there are many healthy recipes that are light on unhealthy ingredients and big on nutritional value.
It’s also important to work your way up. If your loved one never eats vegetables, start introducing them a couple times a week into dinner. Test which recipes your loved one responds well to. Then, gradually increase how often you’re eating fruits and veggies together. If your loved one regularly eats vegetables for dinner, but is reluctant to have them for lunch, consider a light lunch followed by a mid-day veggie-based snack.
Remember: small improvements to your loved one’s diet add up. And while you might not see the benefits immediately, they’ll be there in the long run.