Our bodies and our brains are affected by the food we eat, good or bad, so paying attention to our diet is one of the most important ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Almost everything we eat is converted into glucose and used for energy. As the brain takes nearly 25 percent of that energy, eating well can help preserve our cognitive abilities, such as memory, concentration and learning.
Our ancestors ate a simple diet of plants, berries, nuts, beans, grains, game and fish. Early human civilizations developed to their fullest near the water, where fish were abundant and a part of the everyday diet. Many nutritional experts believe the consumption of fatty fish in those areas contributed to brain growth and health, as well as the growth of early civilization.
Many scientific studies have shown a link between poor diet and Alzheimer’s disease. The culprits are excess sugar, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. The “Mediterranean Diet,” named after the traditional diet of those in the Mediterranean region, supplies almost none of those harmful foods, focusing instead on unsaturated fats like olive oil, almost no sugar, nuts, beans, grains, abundant fruits and vegetables and a small amount of animal protein, such as fish. A recent study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010 found following the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 34 percent.
Today, fish is still a vital contributor to brain health, and can reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s. The best fish for our brains are fatty, cold water fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines and herring. Eating fish regularly – two or three times a week – can also reduce inflammation, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Another healthy fat comes from olive oil, an unsaturated fat. Extra virgin olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 40 percent.
Blueberries contain antioxidants and nutrients that can reduce your risk of dementia and other diseases. Antioxidants reduce damage caused by free radicals, which can help slow aging and memory loss.
A diet rich in vegetables can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 40 percent, according to several studies. The longest study, at Harvard University, followed 13,000 women and found eating lots of vegetables slowed cognitive decline. Researchers found two vegetable families provided the most protection: cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, and leafy green vegetables like spinach and lettuce.
Here’s another reason to eat your greens: A Tufts University researcher, Dr. James Joseph, fed spinach to young lab rats and found they had better memory, learning ability and less cognitive loss. Even more remarkable, older rats showed similar improvement, the equivalent of a 70 year old human suddenly having a middle-aged brain!
While a healthy diet rich in the antioxidants found in fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, no one has a perfect diet. To supply all the nutrients we need to stay at the peak of health, vitamin and mineral supplements can fill the gap. Start with a high potency daily supplement, then add coenzyme Q10, omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil and krill oil, and vitamin B12.
Remember that Alzheimer’s disease may be causing hidden damage to your brain for 10-20 years before you experience actual symptoms. Don’t wait to improve your diet and nutrition until it’s too late – start today!