The phrase “You are what you eat” may not have literal merit, but its message certainly rings true, particularly for seniors. When we choose healthy foods, such as colorful, vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits, or fiber-rich nuts and grains, we are feeding our bodies and our brains the fuel that will both energize us and keep us sharp for years to come.
We all know diets high in cholesterol and saturated fats can cause a host of physical problems, but did you know there is a connection between diets high in saturated and trans fats and poor memory?
Below, Bayshore Memory Care offers some helpful information and suggestions to help you plan a healthy diet for mind and body.
According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, diets high in cholesterol and fat might speed up the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain. These sticky protein clusters are blamed for much of the damage that occurs in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The good news is, we can help improve and maintain our memory by incorporating more mono- and polyunsaturated fats into our daily diet, such as those found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables and nuts.
Eating foods high in healthy unsaturated fats, as is commonly found in the Mediterranean diet, is one way to begin improving your memory and overall health. Recent research at Columbia University Medical Center has shown that this diet may lower the risk of the mild cognitive impairment that can progress to Alzheimer’s.
The foods suggested in this diet, such as olive oil, fish, and nuts, may reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, which means you can actively lower your risk for brain and heart diseases.
Here are some foods found in the Mediterranean diet that can promote better brain health:
- Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging strokes.
- Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health.
- Moderate alcohol consumption, such as a glass of red wine a day, raises levels of healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Alcohol also lowers our cells’ resistance to insulin, allowing it to lower blood sugar more effectively. Insulin resistance has been linked to dementia. However, it is important to drink responsibly.
Health.com explains why these, as well as several other delicious foods, can keep your whole body—including your brain—healthy.
- Foods rich in Vitamin E – Healthy vegetable oil-based salad dressings, seeds and nuts (peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts, for instance), nut butters, and whole grains. Vitamin E may protect neurons or nerve cells from deteriorating, which can ward off the cascade of events that lead to cognitive deterioration.
- Fish – Salmon, mackerel, tuna and other fish are rich in heart – and brain – healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA. DHA is very important for normal functioning of neurons.
- Dark green leafy vegetables – Kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of Vitamin E and folate. We already shared the benefits of Vitamin E above, and folate may protect the brain by lowering levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may trigger the death of nerve cells in the brain.
- Sunflower seeds – Again, these are high in Vitamin E. One ounce of dry-roasted sunflower seeds contains 30% of your recommended daily intake. Sprinkle them on a salad or eat a handful for a snack.
- Berries – The latest research presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston found that blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help put the brakes on age-related cognitive decline by preserving the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism, which wanes with age. This mechanism helps get rid of toxic proteins associated with age-related memory loss.
Mediterranean recipes can be found everywhere on the Internet. EatingWell.com has thousands of free recipes, downloadable cookbooks and even meal plans. AllRecipes.com offers up recipes that followers have posted, along with suggestions from those who have tried and/or modified the original recipe. Both sites invite you to subscribe and follow their posts, receive recipes in your email box, and allow you to create your own “recipe box” where you can make categories and lists to appropriately save the recipes you like.
Here are a few recipe ideas and links to get you started:
Quick Mediterranean Snack:
- 1 slice crusty whole-wheat bread, cut into bite-size pieces
- 10 cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 ounce sliced aged cheese
- 6 oil-cured olives
Read here for more information about and top recipes from the Mediterranean Diet.
Along with your new, healthier diet, be sure to exercise regularly. The combination will help you maintain weight, reduce stress and keep diseases at bay. Of course be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine, and never stop taking prescription medication before talking with your doctor. Follow these simple guidelines and you will be well on your way to enjoying many more years of retirement.
Bayshore Memory Care in Naples, Fla., is a state-of-the-art community designed solely for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. We combine the best of new design, personalized and specialized services, and high-end amenities in a refreshingly elegant setting. Our Heartfelt Connections™ Memory Care Program is nationally recognized for offering people with Alzheimer’s disease, and other diseases that affect the mind, the care and resources they need to maintain physical and emotional well-being and a high quality of life.
The next level of senior living memory care is available right here in Naples—it’s a beautiful place to live. For more information regarding the services offered at Bayshore, visit our Contact Us page, or call 239-213-9370.
Harvard Women’s Health Watch