We’ve all heard of foods that are good for the brain — the importance of getting lots of omega-3s to boost brainpower. Increasing alertness, concentration, and even stretching our abilities to memorize and to take more in, are all important, as is keeping the brain active on a daily basis — learning new things and making new memories. But what about when it comes to memory loss? Dementia, perhaps one of the most dreaded ailments, especially when one thinks about advancing in years, affects nearly 47.5 million people across the globe — a number likely to increase as people in developed nations continue to live longer lifespans. Fortunately, what you eat, in addition to living an active lifestyle, can make a difference, helping to keep back the onset of dementia by years — but there’s no need to wait. You can make these simple changes to your diet today.
1. Blueberries: Rich in antioxidants — in fact, with the highest concentration found in any fruit or vegetable, blueberries are an important food when it comes to preventing the symptoms of cancer. These same cancer-preventative properties can also help with prolonging brain functioning into advanced years. A diet rich in blueberry extract showed improvement in short-term memory loss, as well as improvement in motor coordination, according to a Tufts University study.
2. Tomatoes: In addition to plenty of vitamin A and beta-carotenes, tomatoes also offer lycopene, particularly good at protecting brain cells from free radicals, one of the primary targets of Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 percent of all cases of dementia. While tomato juice contains less vitamin C than the raw fruit, cooking also increases the concentration of lycopene. A number of “red foods” also contain this important ingredient — watermelon, pink grapefruit, and papayas.
3. You might think of oranges when you hear vitamin C, but actually the best source for this vitamin is blackcurrants. Red bell peppers and kiwi fruit all contain higher concentrations of the vitamin than oranges, contrary to what you might assume. Regular daily values of vitamin C (about 75 milligrams per day), can prevent the toxic proteins caused by dementia from building up in the brain, as an 11-year-long study published in the journal Neurology found. Moderate daily intake was discovered to be effective against vascular dementia, more so than simply consuming large servings at a time.
4. The newly discovered benefits of nuts — especially almonds — extend to fighting memory loss, boosting the immune system, and — as nuts contain vitamin E — improving skin health. People with higher levels of vitamin E were less vulnerable to memory loss, as vitamin E prevents the onset of brain oxidation that leads to dementia.
5. Don’t overlook the benefits of leafy greens like broccoli, kale, and spinach. In addition to offering up a great deal of vitamin C, they also have an abundance of vitamin K, which is helpful in enabling blood to clot following an injury, but also works to regulate calcium levels in the brain, helping to replace the amount that is depleted due to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
6. Fish and shell fish (especially oysters) are great sources of zinc: A metal that boosts immunity but may also help with forgetfulness. Not only has there been a correlation between zinc deficiency and memory loss in experimental studies, but many symptoms of Alzheimer’s have been the result of “tau” proteins tangling with neurons in the brain. A chemical bond between zinc and the proteins can prevent them from getting stuck. The Food and Drug Administration currently recommends 8 milligrams of zinc per day for women and 11 milligrams for men.
This article was first published in Brain World Magazine’s Spring 2016 issue.
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