What you eat can play a big part in your risk of getting certain diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are many healthy, brain-enhancing foods to consume to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But what are some foods that you should definitely avoid? There are foods that may contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and those are the ones we want to stay away from. Here are some foods and drinks to avoid whenever possible:
- Diet sodas – a recent study found that those who drank one diet drink a day were nearly three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Artificial sweeteners haven’t been studied enough to really know the long term effects yet.
- White foods – white flour, white bread, white rice, pasta, and white sugar. All of these white foods spike blood sugar, which leads to inflammation, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Processed foods and meat: American cheese, processed cheeses, sausages, processed meats, cold cut meats, and mozzarella sticks.
- Foods containing diacetyl or nitrates: beer, microwave popcorn, and margarine. Diacetyl is a chemical that may increase amyloid plaques in the brain. Research has linked a buildup of amyloid plaques to Alzheimer’s disease.
- MSG: MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning it causes brain cells to fire uncontrollably. This can worsen pre-existing cognitive disabilities, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Soy tofu: According to a study published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, high tofu consumption was linked to worsening memory, whereas high tempe consumption, a less processed soy product, was shown to improve memory.
So what can you eat?? Well, here are some healthy alternatives which may actually reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia:
- Leafy green vegetables: kale, lettuce, spinach. Eat up across the color spectrum to maximize protective antioxidants and vitamins.
- Salmon and other wild-caught fish (and fish oils). Evidence suggests that the DHA found in these healthy fats may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by reducing beta-amyloid plaques. Food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, seaweed, and sardines. You can also supplement with fish oil.
- Coffee. Some studies have shown that coffee drinking can be linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s unclear if this benefit is from the caffeine or other mechanisms like antioxidant capacity and increased insulin sensitivity.
- Tea. Regular consumption of tea may enhance memory and mental alertness and slow brain aging. White and oolong teas are also particularly brain healthy. Drinking 2-4 cups daily has proven benefits.
- Olive oil. Studies show that consumption of olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain.
- Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil
- Berries. Berries are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Some studies claim that blueberries, in particular, may activate part of the brain which controls learning and memory.
- Lentils. Lentils are rich in folate, a vitamin that helps in brain functioning.
- Beets. A compound in beets that gives the vegetable its distinctive red color could help slow the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain.
- Walnuts. A recent study showed that mice who were fed a walnut-enriched diet had improved memory and motor development as well as a significant reduction in anxiety.
So when reaching for a snack, make sure you are making a brain-healthy choice. One of the best things we can do for our body is feed it food that fuels it, nourishes it, and strengthens our brains.