Brain Health & Diet: Foods That Fight Off Dementia

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Everyone knows the proverbial saying, ‘you are what you eat’. These days, there is a lot of emphasis on eating your way to a slimmer physique, lower cholesterol level, and a smaller environmental impact. But let’s talk about diet and brain health.

How does the food you consume impact your brain health?

The brain may not be the first organ most people think of being affected by nutrition. However, there is ample research indicating that certain foods support healthy brain aging and cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Alternatively, there are foods that are proven to have negative effects on brain health and should be avoided (think: fried food, sweets, cheese, margarine). 

Diet is just one of many factors that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Other factors include things like smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise rate, cognitive stimulation and genetics. Still, researchers at Rush University developed what they called the MIND diet and their study concluded that adoption of this diet could reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 53%. 

It is never too early to make dietary changes that could lead to a healthier aging brain. Whether you’re sending your child off to pre-school or your elderly parent to adult day care, encourage them to eat these brain-boosting foods. 

Blueberries

This superfruit not only works to lower the risk of heart disease and cancer but dementia, too. It is perhaps the most potent food out there for protecting the brain. 

Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens may not be everyone’s favorite, but experts believe 2-6 helpings of these vegetables per week will help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. They are full of antioxidants and important vitamins. There are thousands of ways you can create a salad. Experiment and try to have one per day. If you can’t manage that, try adding spinach or kale to a smoothie (don’t forget the blueberries!). You won’t even know it’s there. 

Nuts

A handful of nuts each day could keep dementia at bay. Unsalted nuts are high in healthy fats and protein. While often associated with heart health, nuts have also proven to improve cognitive health. With so many to choose from (peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, almonds, nut butter, etc), it is hard to bore of them. Note: Walnuts are particularly high in omega 3 fatty acids, brain-protecting nutrients.

Fish

Speaking of omega 3 fatty acids…fattier fish like salmon and trout are bursting with these! That said, the iodine and iron in all kinds of fish help maintain cognitive function. 

Beans

Kidney beans and pinto beans have particularly high levels of omega 3 fatty acids. High in protein and fiber, beans are also great for fighting heart disease and cancer. They’re a plant-based diet staple. Paired with the other foods listed here, you can easily create a brain-boosting meal! Start looking up those chili recipes.

Chocolate, Coffee & Spices

Here’s your treat section! Adopting a healthy diet doesn’t mean giving up all your vices. Studies have shown that the antioxidants and caffeine in coffee and chocolate may help ward-off cognitive decline. Additionally, some research has shown that cinnamon and turmeric could help clear beta-amyloid from the brain. 

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