Medical experts who specialize in neuroscience say good nutrition combined with regular physical activity and a socially engaging lifestyle is an effective way to promote brain health and delay the onset of memory loss for as long as possible. They define a “brain-healthy diet” as one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in fat and cholesterol.
Balanced nutrition is essential for both body and brain health. Similar to the heart, our brains require the right balance of nutrients, including proteins and sugars, to function well. In fact, there is strong evidence today that links brain health to heart health.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the human brain is nourished by one of the body’s richest networks of blood vessels. Every beat of your heart pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, and your brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries.
What Are the Ingredients for a Brain-Healthy Diet?
“The Dietary Guidelines for Americans” encourages us to eat a healthful diet — one that focuses on foods and beverages that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health and prevent chronic disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) jointly publish the Dietary Guidelines every five years.
These guidelines provide science-based recommendations that emphasize: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk; lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugar. Water is also essential for the electrical transmissions within the nervous system that enable sensing, learning, thinking and acting.
“Eating Smart:” Your Recipe for Maintaining a Healthy Brain
The Alzheimer’s Association article, “Adopt a Brain-Healthy Diet,” also provides useful guidance for keeping your brain healthy and your cognitive functions, including your memory, intact and operating.
Their recommendations include:
- Reducing your intake of foods high in fat and cholesterol – Studies have shown that a high intake of saturated fat and “bad” cholesterol clogs the arteries and is associated with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. However, HDL (or “good”) cholesterol may help protect brain cells. Use mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil, and try baking or grilling food instead of frying.
- Managing your body weight – A long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop some form of dementia later in life. Those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk of developing dementia. Adopt a new overall food lifestyle, rather than a short-term diet, and eat in moderation.
- Taking vitamins – There is some indication that vitamins, such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together and vitamin B12 and folate, may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A brain-healthy diet will help increase your intake of these vitamins and the trace elements necessary for the body to use them effectively.
- Increasing your intake of protective foods – Current medical research indicates that certain foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and appear to protect brain cells. While not enough information is available to pinpoint what quantities of these foods might be most beneficial for brain health, they have demonstrated cognitive benefits. Protective foods include:
- Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant levels. Such vegetables include kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries.
- Cold-water fish contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, such as halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.
- Some nuts can be a useful part of your diet. Almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant.
Although research on the subject is not yet conclusive, lifestyle choices such as physical activity and the right diet have been shown to support brain health and might actually help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. A brain-healthy diet and a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and social engagement can protect your overall health and help delay the onset of memory loss.
Elaine Austin, Executive Director of Provident Village at Creekside, says, “We take an enlightened, holistic approach to wellness that addresses the health of our residents in mind, body and spirit. Along with our various wellness programs, social activities and community events, we provide an unforgettable dining experience that is both delicious and nutritious.Our team is always available to assist our residents and their families to ensure that proper nutrition is consistently provided.
“Beyond healthy and nutritious meals, our experienced senior living dining professionals are also committed to creating culinary excellence. They use the freshest ingredients to provide our residents with a variety of delectable menus, signature dishes and local favorites. Residents enjoy family-style dining within a comfortable and relaxing dining area, and family members and friends are always welcome to join them.”
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Creekside
At Provident Village at Creekside, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.