Alzheimer's affects 13% of people aged 65 and older, and it is the leading cause of dementia for that age group. Diet and nutrition can play a vital role in preventing or slowing down the progress of this disease. The following foods are incredibly nutritious and will help your brain stay healthy even as you grow older.
- Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are sources of several nutrients that enhance neuron function, such as folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain choline, a B vitamin necessary for acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter involved in brain function, and it affects processes such as memory and cognition. Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, peas, black beans, Pinto beans, and navy beans are all excellent sources of these brain-friendly nutrients.
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, and many other berries are truly nature's little wonders; they are juicy, sweet, and packed with essential nutrients, including vitamins C, E, and anthocyanins, which are important plant antioxidants. These compounds can slow down the brain's aging process, boost brain power, and enhance memory. Berries can also protect against type 2 diabetes, another chronic disease that increases the chances of developing Alzheimer's.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
Foods like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and bok choy are high in B vitamins and carotenoids, which means they can keep your homocysteine levels in check. Homocysteine is an amino acid that contributes to cognitive decline, brain atrophy, and dementia. So, don't neglect to add cruciferous vegetables on the menu to enrich your brain-friendly diet.
- Dark Leafy Greens
Leafy green vegetables are a powerful food group and a concentrated source of folate, a nutrient that enhances cognitive function and protects against depression. According to research, a single serving of dark leafy greens consumed each day is linked to slower age-related cognitive decline. Add kale, collard greens, spinach, and Swiss chard to your dishes to keep your brain in shape.
- Fatty Fish
Fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A diet high in omega-3s can reduce the risk of developing brain lesions that lead to dementia. Aim for three servings of oily fish per week to reach your fatty acid quota more easily. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardine, and halibut are all great options for you to try.
- Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are another rich source of healthy fats, as well as magnesium, vitamin E, and B. Walnuts, in particular, contain anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that protect brain cells and contribute to optimal brain health. Seeds are another option for obtaining antioxidants, vitamin E, zinc, omega-3s, and choline, all essential nutrients that can slow down the process of cognitive decline. Add sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds to your meals to make them even more brain-friendly.
- Olive Oil
Flavorful and extremely nutritious, olive oil is one of the healthiest cooking oils you can use. It's full of monounsaturated fats that protect your heart, lower cholesterol levels, and combat inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. Use extra virgin olive oil to boost your daily omega-3 intake and keep your mind sharp.
Sage, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, and black pepper not only bring out the best in every dish, but they also add to its nutritional value. Spices are an excellent source of polyphenols, compounds with substantial anti-inflammatory properties that preserve mental function, improve memory, and break down brain plaque.
- Tomatoes (and Other Bright-Colored Foods)
Tomatoes are low in calories and rich in essential nutrients, including lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants play a crucial role in fighting free radical agents and protecting the brain from the changes brought about by Alzheimer's. This wonderful food also contains folate, iron, and vitamin A, nutrients with positive effects on cognition. Bright-colored vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, carrots, eggplants, beets, and peppers have similar nutritional profiles, so try to mix things up as much as possible.
Proper nutrition can be a reliable ally in the battle against Alzheimer's. What's more, people who suffer from the disease need to have their diet monitored closely. It's not uncommon for Alzheimer's patients to skim meals or become picky eaters and only consume their favorite foods. A well-balanced diet is crucial to delaying the onset of the disease and preserving cognitive function for as long as possible.
"7 Foods That Can Fight Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease." Healthcare Associates of Texas, 6 Dec. 2018, healthcareassociates.com/7-foods-that-can-fight-dementia-and-alzheimers-disease/. Accessed 12 Mar. 2020.
Hobson, Hayley. "10 Foods That Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer's." Mindbodygreen, 14 Nov. 2019, mindbodygreen.com/0-7613/10-foods-that-prevent-dementia-alzheimers.html. Accessed 12 Mar. 2020.
Reader's Digest. Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal. The Readers Digest Association, Inc, 2013.