A healthful delicious diet rich with brain healthy foods 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.
Vegetables have a dramatic effect on health when eaten daily, 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.
Brightly colored fruits, such as blueberries and raspberries, are especially beneficial. Berry compounds counteract inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been associated with heart disease. We now know that heart disease and high blood pressure are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Control blood sugar.
Reduce high fructose corn syrup and refined sugar by using stevia, a natural sugar substitute, as well as molasses and brown sugar instead. Diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. The hippocampus of the brain, an important region for memory, is sensitive to changes in blood sugar levels.
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 brain healthy spices!)
Eat whole grains.
Whole grains are 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.
A handful of nuts a day helps to reduce bad cholesterol, blood sugar, oxidative stress and inflammation. These are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Also nuts give you a daily dose of Vitamin E, a powerful protector of the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are naturally found in your brain. Levels of these fats in your body drop as we age. 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.
Eat lean meats and low-fat dairy. Meat should be a small portion of the meal, only 3 ounces, when following a Mediterranean Diet. Try reducing highly saturated fats by making substitutions such as yogurt for cream, and ground turkey for hamburger. 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.
Eat With other People.
Part of the Mediterranean Diet is the idea of eating socially. Eating with other people can have a positive effect on our spiritual, mental and physical well being, and when we eat with others we tend to choose better foods.
Learn More About Boosting Your Brain Power
- CNN Health and CookingLight.com highlight 10 specific foods that have known positive impacts on brain health.
- Peruse more Brain Healthy Recipes for easy ideas 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.
- Browse through information on Senior Living Residences’ Brain Healthy Cooking Program and their companion Brain Healthy Nutrition Guidelines and their convenient Shopping List to get you started on the road to a healthier body and brain!