Brain-Boosting Foods That Fight Dementia
There are things you can do to help prevent the onset of dementia. The foods you eat play a part in the fight against dementia. This list helps you get started.
Unfortunately, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are becoming more common. The number of those afflicted in the United States alone is expected to double over the next two decades.
There are things you can do to help prevent the onset of dementia. Regular exercise can help someone with the disease maintain their independence longer as their cognitive function declines. Studies show that a stressful lifestyle can increase your chances of developing the disease. In the fall of 2017, Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine identified a mental exercise that reduces the risk of dementia called “speed of processing.”
Your diet can play a significant part in keeping dementia at bay. If you have already started to see the onset of dementia, it can help to delay further symptoms as long as possible.
This list can help you get started on the path to a healthier diet that will help you in combating dementia.
Foods That Fight Dementia
You will get the most benefit from leafy greens if they are raw. Cooking reduces most of the nutritional benefits. A joint study by Rush University Medical Center and Tufts University found that participants who had at least one serving of leafy greens such as Kale, lettuce, and spinach a day slowed brain aging by 11 years. These greens are packed with antioxidants, Vitamin K, and folate, as well as B9. Working together, this combination of nutrients can help maintain a healthy mind well into old age.
Nuts are another way to get your daily dose of antioxidants. They also contain healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids that help protect the brain. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3s. Make sure that when eating nuts, you choose unsalted varieties. Nuts are also an essential component of the MIND Diet. In one study, it demonstrated as much as a 53 percent reduction for the risk of dementia.
While all berries seem to affect the health of the brain, blueberries have been studied more extensively than any other, as they seem to have the most positive effects. Studies were conducted by the American Chemical Society with group of participants aged 68 and older, who were given blueberries alongside a placebo group. They “demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts” when compared to the placebo group. Blueberries, unlike other berries, contain flavonoids, which keep the brain from aging as fast. It does this by keeping neural pathways in the brain active.
It's well known that fish is "brain food," because many contain large concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. The Journal of the American Medical Association found that participants who ate a diet rich in seafood had lower levels of three different physiological signs of Alzheimer’s. However, that isn't the only reason to eat fish. The iron and iodine found in most fish help maintain cognitive function as you age.
In her book "Brain Food", Dr. Lisa Mosconi cites a study where thousands of dementia-free seniors saw accelerated brain shrinkage due to not eating enough omega-3s. They saw a 70 percent increased risk of developing dementia compared to those who consumed their recommended daily amount!
Beans regulate bodily functions and help to keep the neurons in the brain firing as they are supposed to. They are filled with nutrients, such as folate, magnesium, iron and potassium. B vitamin, and choline. This vitamin helps to maintain proper levels of acetylcholine, which improves brain function.
Sunflower and Pumpkin Seeds
These seeds can be a perfect snack and are great for maintaining brain health. The zinc contained in them helps the body to heal, as does the vitamin E. Just like beans, they contain choline.
These types of vegetables – such as broccoli and cauliflower – contain both carotenoids and folate. Carotenoids help to lower the levels of homocysteine in the brain. This amino acid can cause cognitive impairment. Lowering its levels keeps you mentally sharp.
Other Helpful Vegetables
Other vegetables that have been found to help prevent dementia include various types of squash, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, and beets. These vegetables have high levels of folate and vitamin A that improve cognition and slow the symptoms dementia.
Replacing the vegetable oil and canola oil with olive oil will greatly improve both body and brain. Recent studies have shown that a diet rich in olive oil can reduce toxic proteins in the brain. This also maintains the strength of connectivity between neurons. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats that help reduce cholesterol and improve brain and body health. The vitamin E and antioxidants in olive oil help the brain function better as well.
Brain plaque can build up over time and slow down cognitive function. But, it can be removed by eating certain foods and spices. They include sage, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric. Curcumin, for example, the active compound in turmeric, helps reduce inflammation that leads to damage in specific areas of the brain.
Eat Real Food
A simple way to remember this list is to think, "Eat real food" when considering what to eat. For most grocery stores, staying in the outer aisles generally yields the best results (depending on the design, naturally). This is where you'll find the fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats necessary for a dementia-reducing diet. The exceptions are spices and healthy oils, which are typically found in an inner aisle.
Neal Barnard, an American clinical researcher, has a great TED Talk on the effects of diet on the brain and Alzheimer's:
You can reduce the risk factors of developing dementia and cognitive decline with the right foods and diet. The mediterranean diet is rich with foods that provide such health benefits. It’s definitely worth researching. Reduce your intake of red meat, fried foods and fast food. Daily physical activity manages your weight more effectively, lower blood pressure, and prevent diabetes or the risk of heart disease.
Incorporate these foods regularly into your diet to reduce the risk of developing alzheimer’s and dementia.
For further information on diet and wellness for seniors, download our "Live Strong and Eat Well" presentation: No media download found.