While eating more vegetables and fruits is always a good idea, eating the rainbow can help women live both longer and better. New research published in Nutritional Neuroscience by the University of Georgia in the United States, suggests that though women have higher rates of illness, this can be improved through diets.
Brightly coloured foods like sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, bell pepper, watermelon, oranges, and tomatoes can help maintain visual and cognitive clarity in women, says lead author of the study, Professor Billy Hammond.
“The idea is that men get a lot of the diseases that tend to kill you, but women get those diseases less often or later, so they perseverate but with illnesses that are debilitating,” he says.
“For example, of all of the existing cases of macular degeneration and dementia in the world, two-thirds are women… these diseases that women suffer for years are the very ones most amenable to prevention through lifestyle.”
How gender impacts health
Previous studies reveal that women generally live longer than men, despite the fact that there are higher social determinants for women than men.
One of the reasons for this vulnerability has to do with the way women store vitamins and minerals in their bodies. Hammond points out that women have, on average, more body fat than men.
Body fat serves as a significant sink for many dietary vitamins and minerals, which creates a useful stock for women to access during pregnancy. This availability, however, means less is available for the retina and the brain, putting women at more risk for degenerative problems.
What are carotenoids?
According to Healthline, carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments or phytonutrients that are produced by plants, algae, bacteria, and fungi.
Carotenoids give characteristic colours to vegetables and fruits like carrots, pumpkin, parsnips, corn, tomatoes, and even spinach.
Dietary intake of pigmented carotenoids acts as antioxidants for humans. “Men and women eat about the same amount of these carotenoids, but the requirements for women are much higher,” says Hammond.
“The recommendations should be different, but 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).”
Best served on plates
Carotenoids are also available via supplements, but Hammond says getting them through food is a much better strategy.
“Components of diet influence the brain, from things like personality to even our concept of self. I don’t think people quite realize what a profound effect diet has on basically who they are, their mood, even their propensity to anger,” he adds.
“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.”
Get bright and busy!
Looking for a recipe full of colour and flavour? Veggie loving foodie, Dané Vermeulen has just the treat for you – a sweet potato and tomato rosti.
- 1 medium sweet potato (yields 4 rostis)
- Self-rising flour (chickpea flour for a gluten free option)
- Vegetable oil (for frying the sweet potato rosti)
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small/half large green pepper
- Clove of garlic
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vegetable stock
- 1 can tomato relish
- 1 can butter beans
- Olive oil (for browning onions)
- 1 medium avocado
- Fresh coriander
- Fresh lemon
- 1 spring onion