How a produce-packed diet may help protect your brain.
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Are there foods you can eat to help ward off dementia? One piece of advice that you've heard since you were little rings true: "Eat your vegetables." There's good reason for that advice: eating plenty of fruits and veggies each day has been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, aid weight loss, fight some cancers, and much more. Now, a new study on preventing dementia in older adults gives more evidence that a produce-packed diet may be good for your brain, too.

In the study, Hong Kong researchers looked at data from 17,700 older adults in China. They followed participants for an average of six years to see if those eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day-the World Health Organization's current recommended amount-developed dementia.

Compared to those who ate less than five a day (three daily servings of vegetables and two of fruit), the five-serving eaters had a lower risk of dementia. Eating three additional servings of vegetables a day lowered the risk even more. And the results remained consistent, even after accounting for other factors like smoking and existing chronic conditions.

Just exactly what's behind the diet-dementia connection, researchers can't say for sure. But the study authors guess it may have to do with the role fruits and vegetables play in reducing inflammation. That makes sense, says Jen Bruning, M.S., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "There's a decent amount of research on how fruits and veggies help with anti-inflammation and heart health," she says. "What's good for the heart's blood vessels may be good for brain vessels, too."

Of course, you don't have to wait until you're 70 to try the five-a-day rule. "A lot of the same rules apply to younger people," says Bruning. And while there's no guarantee that eating your peas and carrots now will keep your noggin sharp later on, it certainly can't hurt. "Following healthy behaviors early on gives us a better chance of a long and healthy life," she says.