Munching For The Mind, Foods That Boost Brain Power

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With the risk of memory loss and disorders like dementia on the scientific community’s consciousness, a lot of research has been done in what really gets the brain ticking. In particular, many are looking at the foods that can help improve memory and reduce the risk of developing dementia in later life. Some even suggest that these foods can help dementia patients manage their symptoms and maintain their independence for longer. So, what are the foods that are supposed to help you build a healthier brain?

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Leafy greens and other veggies

Leafy greens, like spinach, collard greens, and kale have become a popular food group as of late. A big part of this is the B9 and folate within them that have been shown to improve cognition and have a role in battling depression. Broccoli, cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables have a similar folate content, as well as ingredients that lower the amino acids related to memory loss. Kimchi is a recipe that takes quite a bit of time to prepare, but it contains lots of antioxidants that can stop the free radical damage so closely associated with cognitive impairment.

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Whole grains and legumes

High fiber foods are highly important for anyone who is, in fact, suffering from memory loss or related illnesses like dementia. For one, they tend to regulate digestion and make that process smoother which can help them more independently use the toilet. Quinoa is easy to make, easy to eat, and also contains a whole host of ingredients good for the brain. Zinc, phosphorus, and selenium, in particular, are hard to find in the average diet. Beans and other legumes also contain magnesium, potassium and more of that folate that can improve emotional health as well as mental health. Both grains and legumes can contain B vitamins that boost neurotransmitters which help maintain sharp brain function.

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Nuts and berries

Acai berries are something of a “superfood.” This doesn’t mean they are the cure-all for the world’s diseases nor that they are the only food you should eat. They are, however, jam-packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients, vitamin C, vitamin E, and those antioxidants that prevent free radical damage to the brain. Plus, acai berry smoothies are easy to make, simple to drink, and taste delicious. But most berries are good, it doesn’t necessarily have to be acai. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and cashews contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Contrary to what the word “fat” means to a lot of people, this doesn’t mean they are unhealthy. Rather, healthy fats are making a big comeback, and let’s look at why that is.

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Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 aren’t just a “good” type of fat, they are essential to the human body. When we lack them, we are at a much greater risk of heart disease, depression, arthritis, and much more. What’s more, they play a crucial role in preventing the lesions on the brain that can cause dementia in the first place. There are multiple kinds of omega-3s, too. The most important kinds are DHA and EPA, which tend to be found in fish, with salmon having some of the highest content on the market. ALA is another type of Omega-3 that is less important, and less efficiently used by the body, but just a small amount of vegetable oil or leafy vegetables can help you get your recommended amount. 

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Spice it up

Whether you’re eating to preserve your mental health or you’re trying to help improve a loved one’s diet if they have dementia, the flavor is very important. Vegetable purees might be easy to digest and very good for you, but they have what we will kindly call an acquired taste. A little cinnamon can do wonders for the taste, but it can also do wonders for your brain. Cinnamon, cumin, and recent superfood darling, turmeric, all help reduce inflammation in the brain and can break up the plaque (literally deposits that cling between and outside cells) that can contribute to memory loss. Turmeric, popular as it is, is another antioxidant, preventing that free radical damage we’ve already covered.

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Making eating accessible

The foods mentioned here have been suggested not only to reduce your risk of dementia but also to help slow the progress of such conditions. Whether or not that is true is not fully defined, but any changes to the diet of someone with dementia should be made carefully. If a loved one will need skilled nursing, make sure that all dietary changes are cleared with them. Ensure you include lots of fiber in their diet to help digestion and incorporate smaller meals that can reduce the need for concentration, which people with memory loss can struggle with. If your loved developed dysphagia, where they have trouble swallowing, avoid hard-to-chew foods and consider those options designed specifically to address that problem like vegetable purees.

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What you shouldn’t eat

There are some foods to avoid if you’re seriously concerned about your mental health which can even speed up memory loss. It should be no surprise that processed foods are on the list of things to cut from your diet, high in specific proteins and nitrosamines, a component that causes the liver to produce fats that are bad for the brain. Breads, in general, should be cut down as much as possible. White bread is particularly dangerous, but even whole grain bread can spike your blood sugar, which leads to the inflammation that other foods we have looked at are trying to prevent. Diacetyl and nitrates are two more unhealthy brain foods that should be avoided at all costs and most commonly found in beers, margarine, processed meats, and microwave popcorn.

There is still much we don’t understand about memory loss and dementia, and it’s safe to expect that other foods and lifestyle habits will be found to contribute as great a role as the dietary recommendations listed above. Dementia is far from simple and it will take more than a diet to fight it, but it can play a bigger role than you might suspect.

 

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