Top 10 Foods to Fight Dementia
The diagnosis of dementia can be debilitating, and if you have ever been with a loved one while they fight the illness, you know that dementia can drastically impact someone’s mental faculties and reduce their quality of life.
Given that dementia is so impactful and that it cannot be cured, you can try to seek ways to reduce the chances of getting dementia and improve cognitive function. Improving one’s lifestyle, as well as eating specific foods, can decrease the chances of getting dementia by improving cognitive function.
Here are the top 10 foods that might help you fight dementia:
Consume Healthy Foods to Prevent Dementia
According to Matthew Parrott, a scientist at the PERFORM research centre at Concordia University, Montreal, as well as Rotman Research Institute’s senior scientist Carol Greenwood, there are foods that best protect against cognitive decline.
These foods include:
- Raw leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Whole grains
- Olive oil
- Low-fat dairy (if eaten at all)
Many of these foods are staples in the Mediterranean diet and they have been linked to a 35% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, as well as a 27% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairments or pre-dementia.
Note that the following foods are recommendations only and you should always consult a physician for health-based changes. If you are allergic to any of the foods on this list or find that you are allergic to a food listed, avoid that food and seek medical attention, especially if you are showing signs of a severe allergic reaction.
1. Raw leafy greens
Raw leafy greens include vegetables like lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, kale, and cabbage. You should aim to eat these at least a one-cup serving, once a day. Overall, it is recommended that you try to consume vegetables five or more times a day if possible.
Raw leafy greens tend to be high in naturally occurring vitamins, like vitamin C, vitamin K, and “brain-boosting” antioxidants, but cooking them can actually increase these nutrients.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are low in calories, rich in vitamins C, E, and K, and contain large amounts of folate, fibre, and antioxidant-like glucosinolates.
Aim for a half-cup serving, three times a week.
Blueberries are often a crowd-favourite. If you love the tart or sweet flavours of blueberries, then you will be happy to know that they are high in potassium and vitamin C and packed with antioxidants and phytoflavinoids. These delightful blueberries can lower the risk of heart disease and cancer with their anti-inflammatory properties.
Your fruit intake should be at least four times or more each day. Try to eat a half cup of blueberries at least three times a week… or more!
We know beans can provide the body with energy-boosting fibre, but researchers aren’t exactly sure why beans are such a powerful agent for improving cognitive health.
If you are looking to improve cognitive function, a half a cup of kidney beans, navy beans, lentils, or chickpeas should be consumed at least two or more times a week.
High in healthy fats and antioxidants, nuts contain brain-protective nutrients. Researchers largely believe that due to nuts’ high concentrations of DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid, nuts can improve cognitive performance in adults and prevent age-related cognitive decline, like dementia.
While nuts should be consumed at least one time a day, consider walnuts at least four times a week. You can take a quarter cup of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter to get these brain-boosting benefits.
Packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, B2 (riboflavin), and D, fish are a powerful way of getting the nutrients that your body needs. They also are filled with calcium and phosphorous and are a good source of iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and iodine.
Fish is recommended at least two to three times a week in 3-4 ounce servings. Avoid battered or fried fish and focus on fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, herring, or tuna once a week or more.
7. Whole grains
Whole grains are considered grains of cereals that have not been stripped of its nutrient parts. They contain the endosperm, germ and bran, unlike refined grains which only have the endosperm.
Because whole grains are much higher in fibre, they are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease as well as promote healthy digestion. Eat whole grains like oats, brown rice, brown pasta, 100% whole wheat pasta, or whole-grain bread, quinoa, bulgur, barley, and whole-grain pasta.
Unless you are practising veganism, vegetarianism, or pescetarianism, poultry is recommended as it is a huge source of protein and is far less detrimental to one’s health compared to red meats. Poultry promotes muscle growth, weight-loss and stress relief as it provides nutrients linked with mood balancers and brain function.
Poultry includes chicken, wild turkey, quail, geese and duck.
9. Low Fat Dairy
If consuming dairy, you should look for those dairy products that are low fat, such as skim milk or 1% milk, low-fat yogurt (1-2%) and cheese that is 22% fat.
If you consume a lot of dairy, be sure it is low-fat and consider lowering the amount you take in as high dairy intake has been associated with poor cognitive function and increased risk for vascular dementia.
10. Olive Oil
If you cook at home, you might notice that you frequently use a fat such as an oil in salad dressings or to create a slick cooking surface. Make sure you swap out your vegetable or canola oils for olive oil since it is heavy in monounsaturated fats, vitamin E and antioxidants.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
Switching to a diet that improves cognitive function should not be done in isolation. It is vital that you maintain an overall healthy lifestyle while seeking the benefits of these foods.
When eating a healthy diet and the ten foods listed here, remember to embrace balance and moderation. It is not horrible if you cannot eat the foods as recommended. Remember, they are only recommendations!
Don’t worry about seeking out that superfood that claims to be a “cure-all”, as these claims are entirely unfounded. Enjoy eating lots of vegetables and fruits, raw veggies daily, and eating a variety of foods.
In addition to these foods, staying hydrated is key to making sure that your body is functioning efficiently and that it is happy! If you drink lots of water and stay active, in addition to consuming a lighter, healthier diet, you might just improve your overall mental wellbeing, as well as your cognitive function!
Baycrest. 2020. “Brain Health Food Guide: An Evidence-Based Approach to Healthy Eating for the Aging Brain.” Retrieved Aug 6, 2020, from https://www.baycrest.org/getattachment/0c3275c8-2419-4f12-ad71-a890d5f70265/Brain-Health-Food-Guide.aspx.
Smith PJ, Blumenthal, JA, Babyak MA, et al. Effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, exercise, and caloric restriction on neurocognition in overweight adults with high blood pressure. Hypertension. 2010:55:1331-1338. Retrieved Aug 6, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2974436/.
Valls-Pedret C, Sala-Vila A, Serra-Mir, et al. Mediterranean diet and age-related cognitive decline: a randomized trial. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015:175(7):1094-1103. Retrieved Aug 6, 2020, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/229308.
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