In a previous post, I have referred to the importance of exercise in protecting mental function (http://www.mortontavel.com/2016/01/07). Now we focus on dietary constituents that also contribute to preserving brain function. Again, however, do not be seduced by the so-called dietary “supplements” that blatantly and falsely promise to improve mental function and memory—either immediately or over the long run. None of these products have been backed up by creditable scientific proof and are a waste of money.
The so called “MIND” diet, however, is backed up by sound science and is a hybrid of the heart-healthy Mediterranean and the blood-pressure-lowering DASH diet (http://www.mortontavel.com/2013/05/02/). (MIND actually stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). Not surprisingly, it limits red meat, butter and stick margarine, pastries and sweets, fried and fast food, and cheese. But we all know that while these foods should be avoided, what should we be consuming in their stead?
After a research team from RUSH University followed the diets of almost 1,000 elderly adults for an average period of over 7 years, they found that, in comparison to elderly individuals deviating completely from the MIND diet, those whose foods were most strongly in line with it had brains that functioned as if they were over 7 years younger. A follow-up study also showed that those following this diet also cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease in half, and even those who only partially followed this plan still had a 35% lower risk. Truly amazing! So, below we list food types you should seek.
VEGETABLES AND LEAFY GREENS
Eat at least one cup raw or one-half cup cooked greens and one-half cup of other cooked vegetables per day. All types of lettuce and greens seem to count, but darker greens such as collards, kale, and spinach, possess more nutrients. We’re not quite certain of why these greens help, but possibly through their high levels of vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene and lutein.
Eat at least five one oz. servings per week. Although all nuts seem to be beneficial, Brazil nuts contain copious amounts of selenium, believed to be especially beneficial for better verbal abilities and spatial skills. One nut supplies all the selenium you need in a day.
Eat at least one cup twice weekly. This should include either blueberries or strawberries. Frozen berries are just as nutritious as fresh, and can cost half as much.
Eat at least one-half cup cooked beans, four times weekly. This can include black beans, kidney beans, lentils, white beans, and others, all of which provide a healthy dose of folate, a B vitamin that may be instrumental in preventing dementia later in life. Canned beans are fine, but rinse them before using to remove some of the sodium.
Eat at least three oz. of fish and six oz. of poultry per week (not fried). In comparison with red meat, both are low in undesirable saturated fat. Moreover, the omega 3 fats in fish may improve learning and memory by increasing the brain’s ability to send and receive messages. One study showed that older adults without dementia who ate 3 to 5 oz. of fish weekly for one year experienced less brain shrinkage, a common occurrence with dementia. However, limit intake of the larger predatory fish that contain mercury; better options include haddock, sardines, tilapia, and wild salmon.
According to some research, the phenolic compounds in extra-virgin olive oil may help prevent toxic protein deposits that can lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This oil may also reduce inflammation and improve blood-vessel function, both of which can benefit the brain.
Eat at least one-half cup cooked grains or a slice of whole-grain breads three times daily. Whole grains, like bulgur and quinoa, were associated with higher levels of brain function in one study that evaluated the diets of people over the age of 65.
This might be the best part, making it all worthwhile! But women may consume only one glass per day, and men, 2 glasses. But beware of consuming more than that, for, according to one study, those who consume more than double that amount are actually at an increased risk of developing dementia.
We hope this information will provide the reader with some “foods for thought”!