Women should eat more colourful fruits and veggies for better health

July 18, 2022
Women should eat more colourful fruits and veggies for better health

Women have noticeably higher rates of chronic illness despite living longer than men. These high rates of illness can be managed by prioritising a diet of brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach, yams, watermelon, bell peppers, tomatoes, oranges, and carrots – the pigmented carotenoids act as antioxidants to prevent visual and cognitive loss, according to researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA).

Research shows women tend to store vitamins and minerals in their bodies differently from men: UGA professor of psychology Billy Hammond pointed out that women reserve many dietary vitamins and minerals in their body fat, to be used for pregnancy. This unfortunately means that the nutrients are less readily available for the brain and retina in women, putting them at risk of degenerative problems.

A UGA study details several degenerative conditions, from autoimmune diseases to dementia that, even controlling for lifespan differences, women experience at much higher rates than men. Women account for nearly 80% of all autoimmune diseases, said Hammond, and so, need extra preventive care.

Dietary intake of two specific carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, have been shown to directly improve ocular and central nervous system health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in specific tissues of the eye and brain.

“Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but the requirements for women are much higher – there are, generally, not any recommendations for men or women for dietary components that are not directly linked to deficiency disease (like vitamin C and scurvy),” said Hammond.

“Components of diet influence the brain, from things like personality to even our concept of self. I don’t think people quite realise what a profound effect diet has on basically who they are, their mood, even their propensity to anger. And now of course this is extended to the microbiome and the bacteria that make up your gut – all of these components work together to create the building blocks that compose our brain and the neurotransmitters that mediate its use.”

Carotenoids are also available via supplements, and the National Institutes of Health has focused resources on specific carotenoids through the National Eye Institute program. And though supplements of lutein and zeaxanthin are a way of increasing intake, Hammond said getting them through food is a much better strategy.


Category: Features, Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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