It’s no shock that your diet impacts your physical health—you’ve likely heard that a thousand times before (if not more!). What you eat plays a major role in your weight and your risk for health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. But what about your brain? Is there a diet that promotes a healthy brain that can help with memory and function? Turns out, there just may be. In fact, there are some foods that could help you fight against age-related illnesses, like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
At this point, it’s hard to definitively say that there is a “brain” diet. But I do believe that what you eat plays a role in brain function. And although there is plenty of evidence to suggest diet plays a role in protecting your brain from losing steam as you age, it is still largely misunderstood. More research must be completed, but here’s what we know so far…
Foods for a Healthy Brain
So far, there appear to be two clear food groups that can benefit the brain and protect it from aging, possibly delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease: foods with vitamin E and foods with healthy fats.
The Research: Research has indicated vitamin E might delay functional decline in people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s, and possibly prevent any decline in people who have yet to be diagnosed. The vitamin’s been found to improve the condition of people struggling with daily activities, like preparing meals or finding their keys.
The Foods: Dark leafy greens like kale, Swiss chard, spinach, and asparagus are good sources of vitamin E and some contain folate, which may also help protect the brain from damage. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, also have sufficient amounts of vitamin E that can help protect neurons in your brain. Complex carbs are also associated with enhanced memory performance.
The Research: Healthy fats have also shown to help with cognitive decline and memory in elderly adults. My theory here is that because the brain is largely made up of fat—it’s about 60% fat—it takes more fats to keep it healthy in order to maintain and regenerate brain cells.
The Foods: In terms of specific foods that might help delay dementia and improve cognition, memory, and daily function, stick to healthy, natural foods. Oil-based salad dressings, seeds and nuts, avocado, and peanut butter all feature healthy fats. (Bonus: They all feature vitamin E, too!) You can also get healthy fats in the form of omega-3, found in fish like mackerel, salmon, and tuna, among other foods.
Diet is essential to your health, and it must be intact for your well-being. When you’re trying to stay fit and healthy, prevent disease, and function optimally, physically, and mentally, what you eat can have a big impact. Research has also shown that a balanced, healthy diet of lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs all boost memory, so make smart choices in the grocery aisle. You won’t just be preventing diabetes and keeping slim, but you might be extending the life and quality of your mind, too.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Kaplan, R., et al., “Dietary Protein, carbohydrate, and fat enhance memory performance in the healthy elderly,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition November 2001; 74(5): 687–693.
Mount Sinai Medical Center, “Vitamin E may delay decline in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease,” ScienceDaily web site, December 31, 2013; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131231163755.htm, last accessed November 6, 2014.