It makes perfect sense that foods we eat affect our bodies, including our brains. With so many older adults diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's disease daily, researchers continues to try pinpointing which foods or individual nutrients have protective effects on the brain. Remember, it's based to get these nutrients through food rather than supplementation as often as possible.
Based on current research, here's your brain food shopping list_
- B vitamins-B6, B12, and folate have been credited with promoting nerve tissue growth function.
- Vitamin B12is naturally in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk and is artificially added to most breakfast cereals.
- Vitamin B6is also found in fortified cereals, along with beans, meat, poultry, fish, and some fruits and vegetables (banana, spinach, tomato, and avocado to name a few).
- Folate occurs naturally in leafy green veggies (spinach, etc.), citrus fruits, and dried beans and peas. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is found in dietary supplements and fortified foods such as breads, cereals, and pastas.
- Benefits of vitamin Dcontinue to emerge, including its ability to possibly prevent the degeneration of brain tissue. Whether this is by forming new nervous tissue, helping maintain calcium levels in the body, clearing brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease, or a combination of them all remains to be seen.
- Check out this blog in my archives for more on vitamin D!
- Vitamin E'santioxidant properties might counteract oxidative stress thought to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
- Vitamin E is found in many healthy fat sources such as nuts and seeds, as well as vegetable oils, leafy greens, and fortified cereals.
- Eating omega-3 fattyacidson a weekly basis appears to cut odds of developing dementia nearly in half by raising good cholesterol and lowering triglycerides in the blood. In turn, this slows the buildup of harmful plaques in blood vessels. A particular omega-3 called DHA, which is abundant in salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring, appears to play a role in protecting memory and thinking.
- OK, so it's not brain food per se, but exercise also has protective effects for the brain. Some studies have shown the brain needs moderateto heavy physical activity, but other research suggests day-to-day activitiessuch as climbing stairs and gardening have protective effects. I've seen figures as high as a 70% decreased risk of dementia just by regularly walking. More evidence to keep it moving!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.