Ever wonder where the term fathead came from? Maybe it’s because roughly 60 percent of the human brain is made of fat! The brain is also a hog: Every time your heart beats, 25 percent of the nutrients and blood from that effort go right to the brain. The more you can do to promote brain health, the lower your risk that you’ll develop the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
A well-publicized study, recently published by researchers at Columbia University in New York, found that people who follow the so-called Mediterranean diet — a mainly plant-based diet that includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seafood and heart-healthy canola and olive oils — were at the lowest risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“A brain-healthy diet is one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in fat and cholesterol,” says Nancy Udelson, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Cleveland Area Chapter.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years researchers find even more links between Alzheimer’s and nutrition, given the dramatic changes in the human diet that have taken place in the recent past,” says Paul Nussbaum, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist and the chairman of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Advisory Council for the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
Antioxidant-rich berries are some of nature’s miracle foods. For a quick, delicious breakfast, try this yummy smoothie: Mix 10 ounces of fat-free yogurt, 9 ounces of orange juice, half a banana, 2 ounces of fresh or frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) and 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds in a blender until smooth.
Take fat, for example. Just like “bad” fats clog arteries throughout the body, they also clog the blood vessels in your brain. Dr. Nussbaum’s number one suggestion to start changing your diet? “Don’t eat in your car,” he says. In other words, avoid fast food: “It’s totally processed and full of salt and bad fats,” Dr. Nussbaum says.
Wise up your diet with these smart tactics:
Focus on Healthy Fats
We’ve all been, ahem, brainwashed to think that all fat is bad. But when it comes to brain health, and reducing those Alzheimer’s symptoms, we need omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in fatty, coldwater fishes such as salmon, herring, sardines and tuna. The fats in these foods are the most similar to the fats that make up the majority of the brain. “Omega-3s propel information from one nerve cell to another,” explains Dr. Nussbaum, who specializes in aging and brain health. In addition to the fatty fishes, you can find omega-3s in flaxseeds, walnuts, beans, canola oil and winter squash. If you think that you’re not getting enough omega-3s in your diet through whole foods, you can take a fish oil supplement to boost your intake.Add Up Your Antioxidants
Antioxidants — helpful substances that protect cells from damaging molecules called free radicals — may be useful in the battle against Alzheimer’s by preventing the toxic plaque that causes the disease from forming. Among the compounds researchers have identified as helpful are aged garlic extract, curcumin (found in the spice turmeric), melatonin (found in sunflower seeds and spices like coriander and celery seeds), resveratrol (found in red wine), ginkgo biloba extract and green tea.