Aging bodies, and the brains in them, do go through changes but there is no need to assume that Dementia and Alzheimer's disease are a natural part of aging, because they are not. While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s, you can certainly utilize good nutrition as a means to help protect yourself from disease and stave off problems as you age.
The latest neuroscience research is emphasizing that one of the most important keys to keeping our brains functioning well, is eating a well-balanced healthy diet. This will ensure that you are getting a variety of beneficial nutrients and help maintain a healthy weight. It is important to note that the foods listed for brain health are the same ones recommended to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. One can say the bottom line is to simply make wise choices in what you eat to keep your body healthy and mind vital. But exactly what are those wise choices? Which nutrients/foods can really make a difference?
While science shows that certain foods do have nutrient profiles that are protective of the brain and including them in one’s daily diet can make the difference in your brain health, the research also shows that it is not about a single nutrient but a variety of important nutrients, coming from a variety of different foods that really matters.
Many research studies show support for a more plant based diet, one that is low in saturated fats, processed flour and sugars, like the the Mediterranean diet. This diet was originally developed to improve cardiovascular health, but it can also mitigate the trajectory of cognitive decline as we age, and may lower the risk of developing cognitive impairment by up to thirty-five percent. (the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, 2017 )
Following a brain healthy diet is easier than you think. Relatively small changes can really add up to great benefit in the years to come. For example, doctors and nutritionists now recommend that most of us need to consume 3 servings of fruit a day to get adequate vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber but few Americans do this. Something as simple as bringing 2 pieces of fruit to work with you daily for a year add up to 730 pieces annually; and that adds up to lots and lots of all those important nutrients needed to mitigate many chronic diseases, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Brain healthy food include: Fish, whole grains, 3 fruits per day including 1 cup of berries daily, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, a serving of nuts per day, and as many vegetables as you can consume, especially dark green leafy ones
Below is a suggested 3-day food plan incorporating foods and nutrients needed for good brain health. (Note: the amounts of some foods will vary according to individual calorie needs). Post this plan in your kitchen as a daily reminder to make sure your nutrition is helping you promote body and brain health.
Old fashion oatmeal
1 cup berries
1 Tbsp. walnuts
Nonfat Greek Vanilla yogurt
Salmon salad sandwich(1-2 pieces whole grain bread (fiber 3+ grams)
Vacuum packed salmon with olive oil mayo, onion, etc.)
Romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes
Oven roasted sweet potato
1-2 cups broccoli
Baby greens with olive oil and lemon
High fiber English muffin
Natural peanut butter or almond butter
Entrée salad: 3 cups romaine/spinach mix, raw vegetables of choice, chickpeas, ½ quinoa or farro, 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds, balsamic vinaigrette
1 cup sliced melon
Hummus, raw vegetables, whole grain low fat crackers
1-2 cup pureed vegetable soup (no cream)
High protein, high fiber pasta with shrimp, fresh tomato, basil
1 cup berries
Lite eggs: 1 egg plus 1-2 egg whites, olive oil spray, sautéed spinach, plus peppers, tomatoes, or onions
1-2 slices whole grain toast with no fat Margarine
1 cup mixed fruit
2 soft tacos: corn tortillas, grilled fish, shrimp, or chicken, shredded cabbage or lettuce pico de gallo, guacamole (skip the chips)
3 cups lite popcorn
Maple Dijon roasted salmon
Red lentils and spinach
Arugula salad with shaved Parmesan