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Are you eating these brain-saving foods?

Berries

 (iStock)

You eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away. But you might want to eat a serving of blueberries after that Granny Smith, too. Consuming flavonoid-rich foods and beverages like berries, nuts, herbs, and red wine may significantly cut your risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study in Neurology.

Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Norwich Medical School followed 130,000 people participating in a long-running study analyzing lifestyle behaviors. More than 800 participants developed Parkinson’s disease over the study’s 20-year follow-up. Men who ate the most flavonoids during that time were 40 percent less likely to develop the disease than men who ate the least. In fact, men who ate one or more servings of berry fruits a week were 24 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s than those who didn’t eat any.

Tips for Better Eating Habits

Previous studies have found that foods rich in these compounds can protect against cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and some cancers, says study author Xiang Gao, M.D., a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.  Now, researchers think flavonoids' anti-inflammatory powers are to thank for reducing your risk of Parkinson’s, a progressive neurological condition that affects at least 500,000 people in the United States. (Flavonoids have also been shown to improve your eyesight and decrease your risk of heart disease.)

Your move: Getting a daily fix of flavonoids. Step one is to pick bright-colored produce since flavonoids give plants their colors, says Alexandra Caspero, RD, owner of weight-management and sports-nutrition service Delicious-Knowledge.com. More color generally means more flavonoids, she says. Think: Spinach over iceberg lettuce and sweet potatoes over russet potatoes. Check out some other easy ways to incorporate flavonoids into your next meal.

• Toss frozen berries in your morning yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal

• Add spinach to your scrambled eggs

• Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried cinnamon into your coffee grounds before brewing

• Add chopped peppers to taco meat

• Add vegetables to spaghetti sauce

• Add dried basil, oregano, or thyme to meat marinades

• Drink two cups of  green tea a day

• Add turmeric to rice

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