As common as it’s getting, Alzheimer’s disease usually begins with just simple forgetfulness that can be overlooked as a sign of aging. But as it progresses, it begins causing serious damage to the brain, disrupting speech, comprehension, coordination, increasing restlessness and dramatic mood swings.
This neurodegenerative and progressive disease destroys brain cells and their connections, wrecking memory and other vital mental functions such as differentiating between day and night and recognizing loved ones.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s affects more than three million Americans each year, affecting individuals as young as 19 but usually diagnosed after the age of 40. Alzheimer’s disease is also the cause of 60 to 80 percent cases of dementia.
Recent researches show good news. These studies have revealed that diet decreased the risk of Alzheimer’s by a third, even in people who didn’t follow it exactly. Most researches focused on following the MIND diet that consists of 15 dietary components. The results showed a 52% decrease in Alzheimer’s incidence, which is similar to being 11 years younger in age.
Several other researchers also found reduced incidence with similar foods of the MIND diet. These foods improve chances of preventing dementia, which manifests as thinking problems and social symptoms that interfere with everyday functioning. These foods are mostly plant-based, berries, and green leafy veggies while restricting animal-based foods and foods rich in saturated fats.
Here are 5 of those foods that can help you prevent Alzheimer’s disease:
Green leafy Vegetables
Antioxidant rich foods remove free radicals from your body including the brain. Research shows that foods rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The MIND diet includes a lot of green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, collards and other greens as they are loaded with vitamins A and C along with folate and B9. All these nutrients are known to improve cognition and reduce depression.
Try eating either at least two servings a week or six or more servings a week for maximizing brain benefits. Consider having a salad daily and at least one other vegetable to protect yourself against Alzheimer’s.
Nuts (Omega 3’s)
Studies have shown that consuming omega 3’s daily can reduce the risk of developing brain lesions causing dementia by 26%. These fatty acids reinforce neuron function and improve cognition. Omega 3 fatty acids can be consumed through several foods like flax seeds and olive oil, but the best source would be nuts.
The MIND diet suggests consuming nuts at least 5 times a week. Nuts are known to comprise of healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants and they can also decrease cholesterol levels and protect the heart. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecans are all loaded with omega 3’s, omega 6’s, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B and magnesium.
Walnuts are well known for their incredible effects on brain health. Walnut consumption can boost cognitive functions like memory, concentration and speed of information processing. A study conducted by the New York State Institute showed that a walnut-enriched diet not only enhanced memory and motor development but also showed considerable improvement in anxiety.
Almonds are also rich in proteins that can boost memory and improve cognitive skills. It also contains zinc that removes free radicals causing disease. They are rich in vitamin E that helps in delaying aging.
Berries have been listed as the only fruit in the MIND diet. Blueberries are loaded with flavonoids and antioxidants like vitamin C, that play a major role in protecting the brain. Strawberries may also have a significant impact on cognitive function.
Berries contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin that prevents the brain from getting damaged by free radicals. Anthocyanins have the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and protect those parts of the brain that are required for memory and learning.
A recent study by the University of Manchester revealed that eating purple coloured fruits, such as blueberries, had the ability to reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s and other diseases like multiple sclerosis as they absorb toxic heavy metals.
The MIND diet suggests consuming berries at least twice a week for good results. You can add berries to some Greek yogurt, oatmeal, or your smoothie and enjoy them at breakfast.
Fish has been known to be incredibly healthy for the heart but new researches show that it is also good for the brain. Researchers at the Radiological society of North America showed that eating baked or broiled fish, once a week decreases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It also reduced the risk of some forms of cognitive impairment like memory loss that can progress into Alzheimer’s.
The study also showed that fish eaters had developed more gray matter, as measured by M.R.I., compared to those who didn’t eat fish regularly. More gray matter could be suggestive of better memory and thinking functions, whereas brain shrinkage is usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Fish also contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which is a vital part of brain cell membranes. Enrich your brain by eating omega-3 rich fish one to two times a week. The MIND study recommends eating fish once a week to protect brain function.
Spices such as cinnamon, sage, tumeric and cumin can help in preventing and breaking down brain plaque and reducing inflammation in the brain that can lead to memory loss.
According to a study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, black pepper, that is rich in antioxidants, contains an alkaloid called piperine, which was found to prevent neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment in animal model of cognitive deficit condition such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Cinnamon is also rich in antioxidants. A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that Ceylon Cinnamon blocked tau aggregation and filament formation in the brain, both of which are typical of Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric is also being studied for its potential role in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is an extract of turmeric that has been a focus of study for its ability to break down amyloid-beta plaques, that are typical of Alzheimer’s, in lab studies. Although much research is still required to be definite, curcumin does possess anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-amyloid properties.
Turmerone is another chemical in turmeric that has been found to stimulate stem cells to form new brain cells. This could prove to be a milestone in treating neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.