If you’ve been thinking of incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet, here in Northern California, the autumn harvest is the perfect time of year to begin! End-of-summer strawberries are still available and sweet, stone fruits like peaches and plums are plentiful, and a rainbow of vegetables – from heirloom tomatoes to kale to eggplant – can be found at local farmer’s markets and stores.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease and body weight management. Increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been “strongly associated with lower cardiovascular risk factors, such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol… Higher total fruit and vegetable intake is also associated with lower risk of cognitive decline.”
For the greatest benefit, variety is the key. NIH researchers found that particular foods may have different positive outcomes for different parts of the body. The following correlations have been suggested:
These findings are not surprising to Joseph Pritchard, M.D., director of memory care at the Masonic Homes of California. Pritchard was instrumental in introducing Blue Zones ideology to the Masonic Homes community. Based on a term coined by author Dan Buettner in his bestselling book, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest,” Blue Zones are areas of the world where cultures have adopted dietary and lifestyle choices that lead to remarkable longevity. Guidelines specify that plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, greens, beans, and fruits, should compose 95 percent of foods consumed.
“The choices we make matter – from how we go about our lives to what we put into our bodies,” Pritchard says. “Here at the Masonic Homes, I encourage our residents to eat ‘brain food’ – and I work to do the same. Diet and lifestyle decisions are crucial to protecting and maintaining cognition.”