Vital Element of Brain Health: Healthy Diet

In honor of November being Alzheimer’s Awareness month (alz.org), HealthyReader will be posting four articles regarding vital elements for brain health that are recommended to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is the second in the series; small changes made gradually over time will provide cumulative effects.

Healthy Diet

Another no-brainer (forgive the pun) element vital to the health of your mind, just like for your body, is watching what you eat.  Fish, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats are the foundation to eating smart.  The phrase, “all things in moderation” applies.

Here are the no-no’s: what’s good for the heart is good for the brain, so you may already be avoiding what’s on this list:

  • Full fat dairy products and red meat; if you’re craving them, allow yourself to enjoy them a few times a month
  • Fast food and fried food; I hate lumping all “fast food” together as there are some chains striving to offer healthy options (I love Chipotle – just skip the sour cream!).  Choose wisely if rushed for time and a stop at a fast food is a necessity.
  • Packaged or processed food; refined carbohydrates found in sugars and white flour cause a spike in glucose levels which you probably know is a risk for diabetes, but did you know it is said to cause inflammation in your brain too?
  • Smoking and drinking in excess; researchers warn the combination of these can reduce the onset age of Alzheimer’s or dementia by 6 to 7 years.  If you’re 65 or older and smoking, the odds of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia increase nearly 79%.

What should you be putting on a plate at meal time?  Here’s what the experts recommend:

  • A Mediterranean diet: which does include an occasional glass of wine
  • 4-6 small meals throughout the day; helps maintain a consistent blood sugar level and avoid the unwanted spikes
  • Fish & nuts: the fat found in these are of the healthy variety.  The fish make a great lean protein option too.  Certain nuts are better than others; almonds over cashews. Just a handful a day is a safe bet.
  • Eat across the rainbow: don’t focus on just green vegetables or limiting yourself to a few favorites. I’ve grown to enjoy beets and squash! Adding some dark berries will protect your glial cells, which are thought to remove toxins from your brain.
  • Drink tea: green tea has been touted in recent history as a great source of antioxidants, but now there may be evidence it enhances memory and mental alertness plus slows brain aging.

How many of you are patting yourself on the back because you’re already following most, if not all, of these guidelines?  Any great recipe ideas or sources to share with us?

For more tips for keeping your brain healthy, read our first article in the series regarding the benefit of regular exercise and stay tuned for next week’s added insight.

 

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