11 Brain Foods That Help Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s
You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. There may be more truth to that than you would like to admit.
As you age, the risk of developing a brain disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s becomes a strong reality, but your diet can help prevent this from happening.
A hearty diet filled with brain-healthy foods helps provide the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and Omega 3 fatty acids needed to boost your brain health. These foods include vegetables, berries, grains, fish, and more.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s: What are they, and how many seniors do they affect?
The Alzheimer's Association explains that dementia is not a single disease but an overall term for diseases and conditions associated with declining memory, language, thinking, and problem-solving skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
According to The Institute for Research & Prevention, there are at least 5 million individuals with age-related dementias. Approximately 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men who live past the age of 55 will develop some form of dementia in their lifetime.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, accounting for approximately 70% of cases. It affects an individual’s ability to function mentally, socially, and physically. Alzheimer’s progresses differently in each patient, but it typically follows a similar pattern, as explained in Very Well Health:
- Early Stage: In the early stages, it is hard to recall recent events, learn new activities, plan and execute actions, and remember describing words.
- Middle Stage: In the middle stages, the ability to think clearly becomes harder, long-term memory begins to fade, and there can be a decline in visual and spatial skills. Anxiety and agitation become prevalent.
- Late Stage: During the late stages of Alzheimer’s, physical functioning declines, making it hard for the patient to dress, eat, and walk. As this stage advances, Alzheimer’s patients become dependent on caregivers for their everyday needs.
Many seniors develop some form of dementia as they age, which is why doing everything you can to help prevent these brain diseases is essential.
11 Brain-Healthy Foods
A diet rich in brain-healthy foods is an easy way to help prevent the debilitating diseases that are associated with dementia.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, watercress, bok choy, mustard greens, collard greens, arugula, and romaine lettuce contain vitamins and antioxidants that boost your brain health.
These greens are rich in vitamin K and folate (folic acid), which promote cell growth. Eating one cup a day of these green leafy vegetables is optimal.
Maybe make a side salad with dinner each day, or you could swap the salad for a cup of cooked spinach or greens a couple of times a week. Whatever sounds tasty to you, but once a day will keep those brain cells growing!
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins C, E, and K, antioxidants, and fiber, which, just like the green leafy vegetables, promote healthy brain cells.
These vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and radishes. You should eat ½ cup of these vegetables three times a week. They are delicious raw in salads, as a snack with dipping sauces, or cooked as a side dish.
Eating ¼ cup of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter daily can also help with brain function. Nuts are high in antioxidants, and healthy fats, which, when consumed consistently, can help lower the risk of developing dementia.
Walnuts, in particular, are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which is a brain-protective nutrient known for improving memory recall.
All berries are essential for brain function. Blueberries have flavonoids, which help to activate the brain's pathways improving memory by slowing down cellular aging in the brain.
Eating ½ cup of berries three times a week is essential when trying to improve your brain’s function.
Berries are perfect with breakfast, as a snack, or added to a salad.
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain nutrients, protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals, which are important to your brain’s health because they are good for your heart.
A healthy heart supplies optimal blood flow to all your body’s organs, including your brain.
Healthy grains such as oatmeal, whole-grain bread, and brown rice are wonderful choices to keep the blood flowing to your brain.
Trade white flour for whole grains whenever possible. The more you add these to your diet, the healthier your heart and your brain will become.
Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are a super source of protein. They also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are necessary for proper brain function.
Eating ½ cup of beans three times a week as a source of protein in place of red meat is a healthy choice.
Fish should be included in your diet at least once a week. All fish contain iodine and iron, which are crucial for maintaining cognitive function.
Some fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, and trout contain high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids that are considered a brain booster and help improve memory recall.
Chicken has brain-healthy compounds, dietary choline, and B vitamins. Choline is a building block in acetylcholine, a brain chemical that helps with memory.
Chicken also contains Omega 3 fatty acids that aid in memory recall.
Including chicken in your diet as often as you can throughout the week will help keep your brain in optimal working order.
9. Low-Fat Dairy
When choosing dairy products, low-fat, skim, or nonfat are your best options. Dairy products contain vital nutrients that your brain needs.
Consuming at least 8 ounces of low-fat dairy each day, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, is recommended to promote healthy brain function.
So, go ahead and start your day with a big glass of low-fat milk - your brain will thank you for it!
10. Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil should be your primary oil for cooking and in salad dressings, because it contains antioxidants, B vitamins, and monounsaturated fats, all healthy components for your brain.
Science Daily states that extra-virgin olive oil protects your memory and learning ability, and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, which are classic markers of Alzheimer's disease.
Who knew that simply switching your choice of oil could make such a difference in the health of your brain!
Excellent news for wine lovers! Red wine contains resveratrol, found in the skin of red grapes, and known to improve cognitive ability.
Enjoying a glass of wine each evening with your spouse or friends is a fun way to boost your brain’s cognitive ability.
It’s important to remember that consuming alcohol should be done conservatively and only if other health impairments don’t restrict its use.
Eating Your Way to Healthy Brain Function
Everyone loves to eat, and no one wants to be saddled with a debilitating brain disease like dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, doing something you love to help prevent something terrible is a no-brainer! (Excuse the pun.)
Many factors can lead to brain diseases that you cannot control, but you can control your diet. The good news here is that it is never too late to start eating healthy!
A steady diet, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, Omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber is the perfect choice not only for your brain but for your whole being. A healthy life is a happy life!
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