A healthful delicious diet can benefit you at any age. Scientists researching Alzheimer’s disease now know that changes and damage in the brain begins well before - sometimes decades before - there are any symptoms. Following a brain healthy diet can be an important step to take to protect your own brain health - even if you are not experiencing memory loss.
These general guidelines highlight a wide variety of foods and spices found in a Mediterranean type diet that specifically benefit brain health. The Mediterranean Diet has also been been proven in numerous research studies in recent years to have MANY additional health benefits.
- Eat lots of vegetables. Eaten daily, vegetables have a dramatic effect on health, including preventing age-related illness. Leafy greens are especially good for the brain due to their high levels of antioxidants, including vitamins A and E, as well as traces of Omega 3's and other brain healthy nutrients.
- Eat a variety of fruits. The brightly colored fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries, are especially beneficial because berry compounds counteract inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been associated with heart disease and we now know that heart disease and high blood pressure are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Control blood sugar by reducing high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar. Use stevia, a natural sugar substitute, as well as molasses and brown sugar instead. The hippocampus of the brain, an important region for memory, is sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels and diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer's.
- Spice it up! Specific spices and fresh herbs have amazing protective properties – cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, and turmeric reduce inflammation and increase blood flow. Cinnamon is also known to regulate blood sugar and reduce cholesterol, important to brain health. Read more about spices here!
- Eat whole grains, a good source of fiber, magnesium, and iron. Substituting white flour, bread, rice, and pasta for whole wheat varieties will help to maintain weight and reduce your risk for heart disease, a risk factor for Alzheimer's. Basically, what's good for the heart is good for the brain.
- Go Nuts! A handful of nuts a day as a snack helps you reduce bad cholesterol, blood sugar, oxidative stress and inflammation - all risk factors for Alzheimer's. Also nuts give you a daily dose of Vitamin E, a powerful protector of the brain.
- Increase Omega-3's. Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in your brain. As you age levels of these fats in your body drop, and eating seafood and other sources of Omega-3s such as green vegetables, walnuts and flax seed help to replace the losses and improve transmission of nerve impulses. Omega-3s are also important for building cell membranes in the brain and are thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Seafood is recommended at least twice per week (the highest in Omega 3's include tuna, salmon, herring, sardines, mussels, oysters and clams).
- Reduce cholesterol. Eat lean meats and low-fat dairy. In a Mediterranean Diet meat is a small portion of the meal - only 3 ounces. When cooking, substitute highly saturated fats, such as cream with yogurt, and hamburger with ground turkey. An abundance of cholesterol in one’s body can build up in artery walls, leading to long-term effects, including coronary heart disease and stroke, risk factors for Alzheimer's.
More Info on Foods that Boost Your Brain Power
- CNN Health and CookingLight.com highlight 10 specific foods that have known positive impacts on brain health.
- Peruse our Recipes for easy brain healthy recipes to make at home!
- The Mediterranean Foods Alliance, a project of Oldways / Health through Heritage, has an excellent web site with lots of resources, including recipes. Be sure to check out their Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.
Why Senior Living Residences Promotes Brain Healthy Nutrition for Everyone
Senior Living Residences is proud to be the first assisted living company in the US to offer a specialized nutrition program, based on research, incorporating brain healthy foods and spices into everyday meals to improve the overall brain health of residents living in our communities. Our leadership in innovative Assisted Living & Alzheimer’s Care for 25 years includes a passion for educating the public and promoting Alzheimer’s prevention through healthy eating.
Read more about our Brain Healthy Cooking Program in our communities!