Brain Health: Benefits of Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Did you know that the health of your brain can benefit from the daily consumption of colorful fruits and vegetables? Recent studies have featured the brain health benefits of purple and blue fruits and vegetables. The rich colors in ripe blueberries, black currants, eggplant and plums are derived from phytochemicals called anthocyanins which have been found to boost chemicals in the brain that impact learning and memory.
One important study supported by the National Institutes of Health showed that people who regularly consume berries may lower their chances for developing Parkinson’s disease. This large-scale study examined 49,281 men and 80,336 women by giving subjects questionnaires and using a database to determine flavonoid consumption. The association between flavonoid consumption and risks for the development of Parkinson’s disease was analyzed over a period of 20 to 22 years, in which time 805 people developed the disease.
For males, those who consumed the most flavonoids were roughly 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than men who consumed the least flavonoids. For females, there appeared to be no link between consumption of flavonoids and the development of Parkinson’s disease. When particular categories of flavonoids were investigated however, a link was found between regular anthocyanin consumption and a lower risk for Parkinson’s development in men and women.
Study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston commented, "Our findings suggest that flavonoids, specifically a group called anthocyanins, may have neuroprotective effects. If confirmed, flavonoids may be a natural and healthy way to reduce your risk of developing Parkinson's disease."
Another study determined that excessive iron in the bloodstream is linked to declining brain health. Unbound iron can cross the blood-brain barrier and produce toxins called hydroxyl radicals, which can be damaging to the brain. To ensure protection from these damaging compounds, researchers examined the consumption of foods that contain iron chelators, compounds that tightly bind to iron, neutralizing the possibility of damage to the brain. Purple fruits and vegetables have been found to be exceptional chelators, namely blueberries and acai berries.
Red meat is a dietary source of unbound iron which raises iron levels in the bloodstream. Phytochemicals found in the skins of purple fruits and vegetables are able to cross the blood-brain barrier, bind with iron in the bloodstream and reduce harmful inflammation in the brain. It is important to note that vegetarian sources of iron like leafy greens are tightly bound with healthy fiber which does not raise levels of iron in the bloodstream.
It might be worthwhile to make purple and blue fruits and vegetables part of your daily diet to ensure a healthy brain. Try blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, grapes, plums, currants, rhubarb, eggplant, beets and purple carrots as healthy foods with possibilities for brain-boosting nutrients.