Keeping our bodies and minds healthy as we age can be challenging. Many of us worry that the slightest lapse in memory could be the start of something more serious like Alzheimer’s disease. But there are ways to help slow the cognitive decline that can come with aging. Researchers have identified certain foods that can help keep both your body and mind healthy. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and help protect against brain diseases. Below are some foods to consider adding to your diet or increasing the amount you consume:
- Oil-based salad dressings: Along with seeds, nuts, peanut butter and whole grains, salad dressings are high in vitamin E and this may help protect neurons or nerve cells from dying, which can lead to cognitive deterioration.
- Dark green leafy vegetables: Use that oil-based salad dressing on kale, collard greens, spinach and broccoli as all are also good sources of vitamin E as well as folate. Both vitamin E and folate help protect the brain.
- Avocados: Avocados are another source of vitamin E and vitamin C. Foods rich in these two vitamins are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Fish: Fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids so including salmon, mackerel, tuna and other fish in your diet and reducing or eliminating red meat and other artery clogging proteins are important to keep neurons functioning normally.
- Nuts: Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and sunflowers are all good sources of vitamin E and are considered “healthy fats.” Nuts may help keep both the heart and the brain healthy and functioning properly – a two for one!
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Flavonoids can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and the heart.
- Red Wine: If you are going to consume moderate amounts of alcohol, the best choice is red wine. Studies have shown that people who drink moderate amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol may be at a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
- Berries: Keep eating those blueberries, strawberries and acai berries to help slow down age-related cognitive decline. Dark berries such as blackberries, blueberries and cherries are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that may boost memory function.
- Whole Grains: Grains rich in fiber are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet, which is also full of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil and wine. This type of diet may reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure. All of these factors may play a role in increasing the risk for brain and heart diseases.
In addition to a healthy diet, finding ways to reduce stress through meditation, a regular exercise regimen and memory enhancing exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku or even just challenging your brain by trying to memorize your grocery list, learning to play a musical instrument, doing math problems in your head or taking a new way home. Experts recommend a little “brain training” daily to strengthen brain function through everyday activities that offer novelty that helps to engage your brain in new ways. Getting enough uninterrupted sleep is also an important part of staying healthy and giving your brain a chance to recharge sufficiently. Keeping our brains functioning well requires us to feed it healthy foods, keep it engaged and challenged and then allow for sufficient rest and relaxation. That’s the recipe for successful brain health!