You know a healthy diet can help protect your heart, but did you know that choosing the right foods may help to reduce your risk of dementia as well? The same system of blood vessels that helps circulate blood to your heart also supplies your brain. When they become clogged or unhealthy, or your blood pressure rises too high, it’s just as damaging to your mind as it is to your heart.
So, what foods can you add to your diet to help your brain health? Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says her top picks are elements of the Mediterranean and DASH diets (see “Studying the connection between diet and brain health”). Elements of both of these diets are shown by research to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It’s thought that these dietary patterns help the brain by keeping blood flowing efficiently and reducing damaging inflammation.
|Studying the connection between diet and brain healthResearchers are working to gather more evidence about whether certain foods — or combinations of foods — can ward off dementia. One three-year trial, called the MIND Diet Intervention to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, is expected to conclude in the spring of 2021. It’s investigating whether there is a relationship between what someone eats and their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.There is already some evidence that two specific diets — the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, and the Mediterranean diet — may help protect you against Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, she says.The DASH diet recommends eating foods low in saturated fat and high in whole grains, fish, poultry, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet takes a similar approach, recommending a diet heavy on plant foods and healthy fats and moderate amounts of lean meats. Both discourage consumption of red meat, sugar, and processed foods.|
You’ve likely heard it before, but fish is good for your brain health. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that can help ward off damaging inflammation inside the body, including the brain. “Even background inflammation is damaging to tissues and to the blood vessels,” says Fung. These omega-3 fatty acids also contain substances called antioxidants, which help protect your body’s cells from damage. When this cell damage occurs in the brain, it may lead to brain changes that are precursors to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Also, some fish, including salmon, are a good source of brain-friendly nutrients including choline, which can help foster the growth of a molecule called acetyl-choline, which helps your brain cells communicate with one another. A study published in the June 2020 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia found that people who closely followed a Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment (that is, reduced cognitive ability for one’s age) in the following 10 years, compared with those who did not follow that eating pattern. But people who ate the most fish had both a reduced risk of cognitive impairment and also slower cognitive decline when compared with those who ate less fish.
Liberal servings of fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of any brain-healthy diet, but berries in particular bring benefits, says Fung. In addition to adding important vitamins and nutrients to your diet, they also contain a healthy dose of those cell-protecting antioxidants.
Whether you drizzle your salad with olive oil or sauté your dinner in sesame oil or canola oil, substituting healthy plant oils for saturated fats, such as butter, helps keep your mind healthy. These simple swaps help to keep your blood vessels healthy and clear of damaging plaques. While any type of minimally processed plant oil is a good option, says Fung, extra-virgin olive oil brings the added bonus of being rich in antioxidants.
|A recipe for better brain healthFocusing on diet alone is not enough to keep your brain healthy, says Harvard adjunct professor of nutrition, Teresa Fung. One of the most important things you can do to protect against dementia and other brain changes is to get regular exercise, she says. Other lifestyle changes are important as well. These include managing high blood pressure, quitting smoking, and keeping your brain working and engaged by participating in challenging activities that require you to think on your feet.|
These nutrient-dense little snacks are rich in fiber and protein, and are a better alternative to processed snacks. They also contain healthy fats that can help protect your blood vessels. Some nuts, including walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts, contain high amounts of antioxidants. In addition, walnuts are rich in a type of plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which helps fight inflammation and cellular damage.
While not part of the Mediterranean or DASH diet, your morning brew may also be good for your health — provided you don’t load it down with sugar and cream, says Fung. It’s a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect brain cells. But be sure not to overdo it. Two cups a day is probably enough.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Acts 4:18-31 And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
2 Chronicles 25:19 “You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting. Now stay at home; for why should you provoke trouble so that you, even you, would fall and Judah with you?”
1 Samuel 2:3 “Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
Micah 2:3 Therefore thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity From which you cannot remove your necks; And you will not walk haughtily, For it will be an evil time.
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