Foods to boost brain health

November 21, 2017 Providence Health Team

Lower your risk for Alzheimer’s with your fork

While there is no guarantee that a specific diet can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, what you eat may play a role in either accelerating or delaying development. If you are at risk, the best thing you can do is cut sugar and processed foods out of your diet and consumer nutrient-dense foods like the following:

  • Leafy green vegetables. Try swapping out animal protein for a diet rich in whole vegetables—specifically, dark, leafy greens. Spinach, kale and Swiss chard are all great sources of vitamin A, vitamin K and folate—known to improve cognition and slow down mental deterioration. While it’s recommended to get at least three to four servings of leafy greens a week when eaten together with other vegetables, it’s best to check with your physician before starting a new diet.
  • Healthy fat-filled nuts and veggies. Eating healthy fats found in foods such as avocados and walnuts not only can improve mood but also can boost memory function and increase blood flow to the brain. Avocados are often mistaken for being a “bad” fat, however, like green vegetables, avocados are high in vitamin E and may help prevent cognitive decline. Further, peanuts, almonds and walnuts are packed with healthy fats, plus they contain folic acid which prevents the formation of brain tangles—a symptom of Alzheimer’s.
  • Blueberries, strawberries and cherries. Naturally sweet and high in antioxidants, dark-skinned berries and fruits protect the brain from free radicals. The protective compound in these fruits are known as anthocyanins and also help protect the body from viruses and cancer. Resveratrol, found in purple grapes, may help slow down cognitive aging and protect against dementia. However, studies around resveratrol’s benefits are still inconclusive.
  • Olive and coconut oil. Coconut oil may be trending, but perhaps there’s something behind all that hype. Coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory capabilities and can destroy bad bacteria in your gut. As you may be aware, when our gut is functioning properly, so is our mind. Olive oil, found in the Mediterranean diet, is credited with protecting the memory and reducing cognitive impairment.
  • Salmon and cold-water fish. Omega-3 fat, often referred to as brain food, is found in oily fish as well as nuts and seeds. It promotes healthy heart functions and helps us manage stress. Omega-3 also aids in the creation of serotonin, which helps our brains regulate anxiety, happiness and mood. Canned fish can be a great—and inexpensive—source of omega 3s.
  • Dairy: Research shows that having high levels of serum folic acid while having low levels of vitamin B12 may increase cognitive impairment. B12 is a very important vitamin in the aging population, particularly because absorption decreases as we age. Good sources of B12 are found in animal products: dairy, meats, fortified cereals or a supplement.

Providence registered dietitians emphasize that nutrition interventions in Alzheimer’s can have as great or greater impact than drugs and should be taken very seriously.

These foods will all fare well when increasing brain activity and sharpness in the short term, and may pay off in maintaining your health over the long term.

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About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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