Senior Brain Health: The Do’s and Don’ts of Diet (part 1)

May 23, 2009 at 10:09 am 2 comments

We’re all grown ups, right?

Berries for Brain Health (image by TouTouke on Stock.Xchng)And by now, we all pretty much know what we’re supposed to be eating:   a balanced diet heavy on fruits, veggies and whole grains, light on fatty, sugary junk food.   But knowing isn’t the same as doing, and being told “you should do this” just doesn’t  motivate some of us. We need more specific reasons to get us to put down the Twinkies and nibble on a carrot stick.

So how about this?

What you eat (and don’t eat)  is a big part of overall brain health.  Not only does eating right lower your risks of Alzheimer’s, but it affects your cognitive function, mood, motivation levels, your risk of stroke, even things as simple as the number of senior moments you experience.

And while most of the brain-healthy rules are in line with general healthy-diet advice, there are some specific things to pay attention to.

Here are a few pointers for better-brain nutrition:

1. Heart Healthy = Brain Healthy

As a general rule, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.  Blood flow is one of the most important aspects of brain health, so keeping cholesterol in check is important.  Some of the recommendations: Oat bran, walnuts and almonds and other nuts, Omega-3 rich fish,  olive oil, and foods with cholesterol lowering additives like plant sterols and stanols.

2. Fish Really Is Brain Food

Some types of fish contain high levels of Omega-3, which is good for both the heart and the brain. The best fish?  Coldwater “fatty” types that include salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon.  The wild kind are generally better choices than farm raised, and if you really hate fish, you can also get Omega-3’s from flax seed, canola oil, and walnuts (to name just a few sources)

3. Speaking of Walnuts..

Ever notice that a walnut looks like a little brain? Funny thing, that – because walnuts turn out to be quite good for the brain, . So are almonds, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds,  and pumpkin seeds.  Since each type of nut and seed has particular brain-benefits, and a trail-mix variety can help not only with cognitive function and over all brain health, but has the potential for mood-elevation and depression/anxiety relief.

4. Super Fruits

Strawberries, blueberries, cranberries – heck, just about *any* of the berries are great for the brain.  They’ve been shown to boost memory, protect from damage after a stroke, and a lot of other good stuff.  More recent studies also suggest that other fruits (specifically the dark skinned plums) may have a similar but less concentrated effect – making them a more economical choice during many seasons of the year.

5. Egg Yolks

Yes, yes, I know… for years we’ve been sold on the idea that we should separate egg whites and yolks, and toss out the yolks.  That may not be such a brainy idea, after all.  Egg yolks are exceptionally high in choline, a basic nutrient for cell building that prevents senility in rats, and seems to increase memory function.  If you’re really concerned about the fats in eggs, though, try skim milk as an alternative.

6. Eat Your Veggies

Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens seem to have the best brain benefits, but zucchini, summer squash, broccoli, and eggplant also seem to provide some protective elements for the mind and memory, presumably because of high anti-oxident levels.

7. No-Longer-Guilty Pleasures

Dark chocolate. Coffee. Tea.  Even moderate amounts of red wine.   They all have unexpected brain-boosting benefits, most likely due to things called flavonoids.  But keep that “moderation” word in mind…. too much chocolate causes weight gain and the sugar can cause blood glucose spikes (bad for the brain).  Too much caffeine can increase anxiety and raise blood pressure (both bad for the brain).  And too much alcohol increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia significantly.

Just Scratching The Surface

Nearly every day, it seems like results from studies on brain-health and diet are released, and it’s almost impossible to keep up.  Even if we could keep up, most of the studies are preliminary or offer only general guidelines, and not specifics. For instance, while we know that certain compounds in blueberries are especially protective to the brain, we don’t have much evidence for how many blueberries we need for that protective effect, or at what ages or health conditions they’re most helpful for, or if they need to be eaten at certain times or in combination with other foods.

So instead of trying to follow some precise brain-food diet, the best bet is to just develop a general understanding of what’s good and what’s bad, and tailor your food and snack choices accordingly.

And Next Up?

Part 2: The Don’ts
What you definitely *shouldn’t* be eating for better brain health and Alzheimer’s prevention!

Entry filed under: Nutrition & Diet. Tags: , , , .

Communication, Connection, Contribution to the Community, & Ye Olde Cognitive Skills Senior Brain Health: The Do’s and Don’ts of Diet (part 2)

2 Comments Add your own

  • […] Senior Brain Health: The Do’s and Don’ts of Diet (part 2) By brainfitnessnews Read Part 1 of this article […]

  • 2. Brain Vitamins  |  July 27, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Thanks for post especially focusing on the significance of brain nutrition. Brain is the most significant as well as the most complex organ of our body. Nutrition plays the key role in maintaining a perfect and a healthy brain. Therefore it is quite essential to provide our brain all the required nutrition in order to get a healthy brain.


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About This Blog

A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness



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