Google ‘brain health for seniors’ and more than 23,000 results pop up with advice for getting and keeping the brain in optimal health. From taking a fish oil supplement to completing a crossword puzzle daily, every article offers something for inquiring minds looking for ways to improve memory and ward off cognitive decline.
There’s one effective tool, however, that’s available to everyone at every age: food.
“Brain health begins in the kitchen,” says Dr. Marwan Sabbagh, a leading geriatric neurologist and dementia specialist. He co-authored with celebrity chef Beau MacMillan the cookbook entitled, “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: 100 Recipes to Boost Brain Health.” During an educational presentation at Covenant Village of Turlock, he shared tips about how to prepare brain friendly recipes that are easy to make and taste delicious.
“Incorporating the correct fruits, vegetables and spices, such as cloves or rosemary, into your meals and making small changes to your diet can have a dramatic affect on your memory and can even help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease,” he explains.
While there is still no cure for Alzheimer’s, Sabbagh says research shows consuming foods high in specific nutrients can help lower the risk of cognitive decline. Foods containing thiamine, pyridoxine, folic acid or cyanocobalamin can help fight brain diseases, he says, and suggests people of all ages:
• Reduce the intake of food high in fat and cholesterol. That means cut back on beef, lamb, pork, butter, milk and cheeses, as well as coconut, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter, which are high in saturated fat.
Consume a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables are just plain good for you, especially sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, bell peppers, papayas and mangoes, to name a few.
Include herbs, fruits and vegetables with high Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity scores in your diet. Pick your favorite berry (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, for example) and munch on apples, citrus fruits and figs. Broccoli, eggplant and asparagus are high-scoring vegetables and cilantro is at the top of the herb list.
Eat fish and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and herring are rich sources of omega-3. So are walnuts, flaxseed, coffee, tea and turmeric.
Follow the guidelines of a Mediterranean diet. That means more fish, vegetables, olive oil and a moderate consumption of protein in a daily basis.
Dr. Sabbagh also notes that a nutrient like resveratrol can be found in unexpected foods and is available as a supplement. A naturally occurring phytoalexin found in red wine, resveratrol has been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-aging and life-prolonging effects. And, recent research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry shows that it also has the power to enhance memory and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
There is no magic pill to improve memory or prevent Alzheimer’s. But, there are smart lifestyle choices we can make every day to shape our brains for better health – starting in the kitchen.
Brain Boosting Recipes Cherry-Fennel Juice with Lime
2 cups cherries, stemmed and pitted
½ cup ice cubes
1 cup chopped fennel bulb, plus fennel fronds for garnish
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Combine the cherries and ice in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher, pressing on the solids to extract as much juice as possible.
Push the chopped fennel through a juicer. Add the fennel juice to the cherry, and then garnish with fennel fronds. Serve right away.
Kale, Blueberry & Pomegranate Salad
3 bunches kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup vinaigrette or dressing of your choice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Combine the kale, blueberries, carrots, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and mint in a medium bowl and toss well. Drizzle with dressing and toss again. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve right away.
Covenant Village of Turlock is one of 14 continuing care retirement communities administered by Covenant Retirement Communities. Visit Covenant Village of Turlock for more information or call 877–834-1238. For more information on brain health, visit Dr. Marwan Sabbagh MD.