Healthy Brains – The Food Factor

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submitted by Mary Campbell
Education & Support Coordinator
Alzheimer Society of Lanark Leeds Grenville

“You are what you eat”. It is well known that your diet has an impact on a person’s physical health. The foods you eat play a major role in weight maintenance and your risk for health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Diet also appears to have an impact on brain health. There is a great deal of evidence which suggests diet plays a role in protecting your brain from deteriorating with age.

There are two primary food groups that may benefit the brain and protect it as it ages.

These are foods with vitamin E and foods with healthy fats. Enough vitamin E can help protect the neurons in your brain from breaking down, and has been found to be associated with improved memory performance.

Good sources of vitamin E include dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus.

Research has also shown that healthy fats help prevent cognitive decline and memory lapses. This can be explained by the fact that the brain is primarily made up of fat. The brain is about 60 percent fat and it takes more fats to maintain a healthy brain. While helping to maintain healthy brain cells, healthy fats also nurture regeneration of brain cells.

Healthy fats are found in oil-based salad dressings, seeds, avocado, nuts and peanut butter. These fats are also present in fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel.

Cell damage in the brain can be reduced by eating foods high in antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced by various chemical reactions in the body. Free radicals can damage cells, and may play a role in heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Free radicals increase with age and bodies become less capable of breaking them down.

Fruits high in antioxidants include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries. Vegetables high in antioxidants include kale, spinach, beets, red peppers, onions, corn, and eggplant.

It is very possible to maintain a healthy brain. Aside from maintaining a healthy diet with good amounts of vitamin E and healthy fats, it is also a good idea to get daily exercise and adequate sleep.

Remember that it is possible to keep your brain in shape just like keeping the body in shape, but you have to work at it.

Did you know? The Alzheimer Society offers educational presentations on a variety of topics to community and professional groups. Please contact the Alzheimer Society toll free 1-866-576-8556 to book a date.

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