Food is a powerful tool. A well-balanced diet delivers to the body a powerhouse of nutrients, and the necessary defense mechanisms to ward off illness and disease. The brain claims a spot as one of the most powerful organs, but is also one of the most fragile. The past few decades have seen an influx of ‘brain food’ lists, but their efficacy and credibility isn’t always reliable.
With National Alzheimer’s Disease month underway, a review of the most recent literature reveals that diet and nutrition can indeed affect cognitive health. Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating debilitating disease, the risk of developing it is increased by age, genetic factors, and several medical risk factors. Increasingly studies have proven that dietary and lifestyle factors have a large influence on risk, indicating that it may be possible to prevent (or reduce risk of) Alzheimer’s by adding the right brain food to your diet.
The Best Brain Food
Saturated and Trans Fats – Reduce/ Eliminate
There are some simple steps we can take to prevent the impairment of our collective brain health. In a Chicago based study, the effect of saturated and trans fats was linked with the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Minimizing the intake of these fats found primarily in dairy products, meat, and certain oils (especially those labelled ‘partially hydrogenated’) can reduce your risk.
Vitamins B12 – Increase
While reducing the saturated and trans fats in your diet, be sure to focus on adding more B Vitamins. B12 is essential for brain and nervous system health and is responsible for blood cell formation. As the body ages it becomes more difficult to absorb B12 so a conscious effort to include it in your diet is key. Salmon, cod, eggs, nutritional yeast, dark leafy greens, spirulina, and fermented soy products are all excellent sources of B12.
Copper – Stay Strictly Within Limits
Our diets can play a modulating role in the relationship between metal and cognitive health. Individuals with high copper intake were found to experience cognitive decline equal to that of 19 years of aging. Avoiding excessive intake of the metal via supplements or a diet high in shellfish (in which copper levels are naturally high) can help protect the brain against copper excess.
A warning against multivitamins is relevant as the most common brands contain both iron and copper, sometimes exceeding the recommended daily value; not to mention that most individuals in the first world meet the recommended intake of these minerals through their everyday diet.
Phytochemicals – Increase
To promote brain health, a diet high in fruits and vegetables has been proven successful. A select number of ‘super foods’ and ‘brain foods’ definitely have earned their spot on the list. This is thanks to the presence of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are potent plant compounds that protect the body against disease and are found in highly concentrated amounts in these ‘super foods’. Blueberries contain pterostilbene, a plant compound that has been proven to reduce cognitive decline.
Antioxidants – Increase
The old adage ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ may hold more truth than we realize. Apple skins have antioxidant compounds that have been proven to protect the brain from damage that commonly leads to Alzheimer’s disease.
With the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease expected to nearly triple in coming decades, finding methods of prevention is crucial. An estimated 4.7 million Americans were affected in 2010 by this crippling disease with no cure. Faith in scientific research leaves many hopeful for a cure, but why not take measures into your own hands and use food as your weapon in the fight to prevent Alzheimer’s.