When it comes to our physical health, we tend to choose foods that support a healthy weight, help balance our blood sugar, and reduce our risk of conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Sometimes, one of the most important organs is disregarded and isn’t an area of focus until damage has already occurred.
I’m speaking about the brain, of course, and just as your body needs the right nutrients to fuel optimal functioning, so does your brain. We may not know everything there is to know about Alzheimer’s, but we do know that following a balanced whole food diet can reduce your risk. First, let’s discuss Alzheimer’s diet tips, then focus on nutrition once Alzheimer’s has been diagnosed.
Prevent Alzheimer’s with a Nutrient-Rich Diet
We understand the ways in which various foods influence brain activity, either producing positive or negative effects. To reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases, you should be following a balanced whole food diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean protein options, and healthy oils, such as walnut. Here are some key ingredients to focus on:
- Cruciferous vegetables: These include vegetables like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy. They help naturally lower homocysteine which is an amino acid that’s been linked to cognitive decline. Try to consume dark leafy vegetables daily, as they have been strongly linked to lower levels of impairment in older age.
- Berries: Packed with beneficial antioxidants, berries contain anthocyanin, protecting your brain against free radical damage. Just like omega-3, your body cannot produce antioxidants so your intake is reliant on your diet.
- Whole grains: Get rid of all that white bread and pasta in your home, swapping these problematic foods with ingredients such as quinoa, barley, and steel-cut oats. These ingredients helps stabilize your blood sugar instead of causing dramatic spikes. Since diabetes is closely linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s important to maintain balanced glucose levels.
- Legumes and Beans: Legumes are protein powerhouses, offer your body iron, folate, magnesium, and more. They also contain choline which boosts acetylcholine production, which is a neurotransmitter known to influence cognitive functioning.
- Foods High in Omega-3: As mentioned, you need to source omega-3’s from your diet. Consume fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna at least once weekly. By aware of where you’re sourcing your fish, as some sources yield higher mercury levels than others. Olive oil, flax seeds, and walnuts are also great brain foods.
These are just some of the foods to focus on, but like I said, a varied and balanced diet is key. Eliminate processed and fried foods that are high in trans-fat and reduce your intake of high-fat and high-sugar foods. Also, swap soda for water and herbal teas.
Food Tips For Individuals Affected By Alzheimer’s
When it comes to Alzheimer’s, difficulties with eating tend to be a common issue. As this disease progresses, it’s critical to maintain proper nutrition to reduce symptoms of confusion and weakness. If you are personally caring for a loved one, encourage a balanced diet.
Continue to offer the foods mentioned above, as these will help maintain physical strength and potentially reduce some of the most problematic symptoms. As Alzheimer’s progresses, you may need to make adjustments in how you approach meal time. Here are a few key tips:
- Reduce distractions during meal time. That means turning off the television and clear the table of any items that aren’t required for eating.
- In the beginning, your loved one may forget to eat. If you’re not physically with them, make sure you’re preparing meals ahead of time so that you can call them and remind them to eat. You may need to get creative with meals, as smell and taste often begin to diminish.
- Offer foods one at a time as a full plate can be overwhelming. Several small meals throughout the day tends to work well for many, ensuring that they obtain the nutritional foods they require. Also, remember that swallowing can be difficult for some, so make sure the food is manageable. Cut into small pieces if possible and avoid foods that can tough to chew and swallow, such as popcorn or whole nuts.
Hart, C. (2013). Memory Boosting Superfoods That Fight Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s.net. Retrieved from http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-10-15/superfoods-that-fight-alzheimers/
Oglethorpe, A. (2015). 10 Foods to Cut Your Risk for Alzheimer’s. Everyday Health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/foods-cut-your-risk-alzheimers-disease/#11