We have all heard the saying, “Prevention is better than cure.” This statement rings true to fight dementia. One of the best ways to cut your risk is by adjusting your diet.
Many studies have shown that the number one food that can decrease your risk is, in fact, green leafy vegetables. However, several other foods have definite benefits for preventing Alzheimer’s. There are even entire diets designed specifically to fight dementia.
How Can You Reverse or Fight Dementia Naturally?
Keeping your mind active can help prevent the development and progression of dementia. You can do so by:
- dietary changes (using the MIND Diet)
- remaining socially active
- reducing stress
- getting enough sleep
It’s essential to understand which are the best foods to add to your diet.
You must also note which food to exclude to avoid or delay the progression of damage to the brain, leading to dementia. If you or your loved ones are facing high levels of dementia, the best solution may be to consider Memory Care services.
What Are the Preventable Causes of Dementia?
Dementia is a progressive disease. There are likely to be years when changes in the brain occur without clear signs or symptoms. But unlike genetics and aging, there are factors that you have control over and can change.
The 2 leading preventable causes of dementia are as follows:
- Oxidative stress
There are also certain common health concerns for seniors, such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
By adding foods that prevent these causes, you can decrease your risk of dementia.
What’s Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress is when there are large amounts of free radicals and not enough antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules. Due to their structure, they readily react with other molecules in your body. In doing so, they damage the tissues they interact with (including brain cells). Free radicals may even cause cell death.
Antioxidants react with free radicals to make them more stable. This way, these radicals no longer react with the other molecules in the body. Many foods contain antioxidants, which we’ll discuss later in this article.
How Does Inflammation Cause Dementia?
Patients with dementia have increased inflammatory markers. Inflammation in your brain can result from inflammation in your body.
Inflammation may happen due to:
- chronic arthritis
- certain autoimmune disorders
Several foods can cause this inflammation. Some examples are food items that contain sugar, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates.
Inflammation in the brain means decreased energy production. That makes it difficult for you to concentrate.
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Which Are the 15 Best Foods to Beat Dementia?
Research has shown that our diet affects the aging brain’s thoughts and memories. As mentioned, oxidative stress, inflammation, and certain chronic diseases can lead to dementia.
You should add foods to your diet that are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins – such as kale, salmon, spinach, and nuts. These are the best foods to decrease cellular stress and inflammation. Adjusting your diet in this way will cut the risk of dementia.
Listed below are the 15 best foods to add to your diet to lower your risk of dementia:
1. Green leafy vegetables
- collard greens
- swiss chard
Leafy green vegetables are full of vitamins (A, K, and C), folate (vitamin B9), minerals, antioxidants (such as lutein and beta-carotene), and fiber.
They decrease oxidative stress as well as inflammation.
Also, they’re low glycemic index (GI) foods. They offer definite health benefits such as a decreased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Swiss chard contains a flavonoid, which may be beneficial in lowering your blood sugar levels.
You should have at least 6 servings per week or as much as 1-2 servings per day.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
- brussels sprouts
These vegetables are rich in B vitamins (such as folate), vitamin K and carotenoids. Folate and carotenoids lower levels of substances that can promote the progression of dementia.
These vegetables are also full of antioxidants and can decrease age-related damage to the brain.
Try to include three ½ cup servings in your diet each week.
3. Other vegetables
- sweet potatoes
These vegetables contain nutrients, fiber, vitamins A and C, folate, and minerals. They’re anti-inflammatory and help in regulating blood sugar.
Beets help lower your blood pressure. Also, beets have high nitrate content (resulting in improved blood flow in the brain’s frontal lobes). They’re associated with enhanced cognitive functioning.
It’d be best if you tried to have at least 6 servings per week. When you do this, be sure to choose non-starchy vegetables as they’re low in calories and full of nutrients.
Fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They help to reduce stress and inflammation.
These fatty acids help increase blood flow and build the membranes around all the cells in your body. They also help develop the membranes around brain cells known as neurons.
Eat fish at least once per week.
Strawberries and blueberries are the most potent brain food in this group of food.
Berries contain flavonoids, and thus they’re considered excellent brain foods. Diets rich in flavonoids are 2 to 4 times less likely to develop dementia.
The antioxidant components in berries improve communication between brain cells and decreased inflammation.
Try to eat berries at least twice per week.
Tomatoes and avocados are classified as berries! Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats. These fats help decrease blood pressure, contributing to a decline in brain function.
Nuts containing monounsaturated fats such as:
- brazil nuts
Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that assists in lowering cholesterol. Thus, it decreases the risk of heart disease.
Nuts contain potent antioxidants. These antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, decreasing the risk of dementia.
Include a minimum of 5 servings (each being 1/4 cup) of nuts per week.
7. Whole grains
- brown rice
- bulgur wheat
- quinoa, oatmeal
- 100%-whole-grain bread
- whole-grain pasta
Whole grains are a rich source of fiber, several B vitamins, vitamin E, minerals, and certain nutrients. They lower your total cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease.
Quinoa is an abundant protein source and contains Vitamin E and minerals such as zinc, phosphorus, and selenium. These minerals are essential to brain cells’ functioning. Vitamin E and folate both act as antioxidants, further promoting brain health.
Nutritionists recommend eating 3 servings per day.
- kidney beans
- pinto beans
Beans are high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Omega-3 fatty acids support healthy brain function.
Kidney and pinto beans, in particular, have been found to have unusually high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. They’re a must-have in any diet. They’re also low in calories and fat. These beans lower cholesterol and can regulate blood sugar levels even hours after eating them.
It’s best to eat beans 3 times per week. Since they’re high in protein, you can use them in your diet to replace red meat at least twice per week.
Poultry such as chicken, duck, and turkey contain omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6, B12, and choline. All these provide neuroprotective effects.
Studies found that eating these foods decreases the level of protein in the blood associated with Alzheimer’s. These are lean meats and, as such, provide benefits for cardiac health.
Include white meats at least twice per week in your diet.
10. Olive oil
Olive oil should be your primary oil for preparing food, rather than other oils or butter. Other types of oils contain trans-fats, which cause inflammation.
Olive oil contains antioxidants that prevent the onset of disorders like dementia. Use extra virgin olive oil if available. It has the most significant anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.
Substitute your usual cooking oil and other oils used in food with olive oil (preferably extra virgin olive oil).
11. Herbs and spices
- fresh or dried coriander
These herbs contain 10 times more antioxidants than nuts and berries!
Certain studies associate the smell of rosemary and mint with improved memory. Sage prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, associated with better memory.
These spices contain substances known as polyphenols. They can decrease inflammation, which assists in preventing dementia. Spices are also an exceptional source of antioxidants.
Turmeric and nutmeg may reduce plaques that build up in the brain. Cinnamon can decrease blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Include these herbs and spices in your meals.
- sunflower seeds
- flax seeds
- pumpkin seeds
These seeds are full of antioxidants such as vitamin E and zinc, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and choline.
They prevent oxidative stress and inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids contained in these seeds also decrease cholesterol levels. Linseeds contain lignans, which protect your blood vessels against inflammation.
Eat seeds as part of a meal or as a small snack daily.
13. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains dark unprocessed cocoa. It’s an excellent source of plant nutrients and antioxidants.
It can relax arteries and thus aid in supplying nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids. According to certain studies, flavonoids can improve the growth of your brain cells and blood vessels. That helps to improve your memory and learning.
1/8 cup per day (around 20g).
Red and white wine may benefit the brain.
Red wine contains a compound known as resveratrol. Resveratrol decreases the risk of dementia.
Keep in mind that though alcohol can have benefits, you should consume it in moderation. When you drink in excess, there may be adverse effects, especially on the brain.
Excess alcohol decreases brain volume, changes your metabolism, and disrupts neurotransmitters.
Alcoholism leads to a vitamin B1 deficiency. This deficiency leads to specific brain disorders that impair memory.
You should consume no more than 1 glass per day.
Coffee contains caffeine, which stimulates the production of neuroprotective agents in your brain. Coffee also contains antioxidants that decrease stress on the brain.
Consuming caffeine can reduce the collection of amyloid-beta and amyloid-tau. These are compounds associated with plaque formation in the brain. Both of these compounds are indicators for Alzheimer’s.
According to studies, 3-5 cups of coffee per day during midlife decreases the risk of dementia.
What Are the Worst Foods for Dementia?
Certain foods can decrease memory function and increase the risk of dementia. Examples include sugary sweets, fried food (high in trans fats), butter, and red meat. These foods increase oxidative stress and inflammation. Foods high in sugar and trans fats can give rise to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.
1. Pastries and sweets
This group includes sugars such as sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and refined carbohydrates such as white flour. Typical examples from our daily diet include:
- white bread
- white rice
- breakfast cereals
A high daily intake of sugar in your diet increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, increased blood fats, heart disease, and dementia.
Refined carbohydrates are stripped of almost all their fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are regarded as “empty calories.”
Carbohydrates, regarded as empty calories get digested fast and thus lead to rapid increases in blood glucose levels and overeating.
Foods such as these have a high GI. GI refers to how much a food raises your blood glucose based on serving size. These types of food cause inflammation of the part of the brain, which affects memory.
A recent study found that when people consumed more than 58% of their daily calories in carbs, their risk for dementia doubled.
Select healthier alternatives. Try unsweetened ice tea, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products. Use 100%-wholewheat bread instead of white bread. Assess which other foods in your diet you can replace with healthier alternatives.
Many people try to decrease their sugar intake by using artificial sweeteners; however, this isn’t advisable. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used in many sugar-free products.
Aspartame contains phenylalanine. It can disrupt brain function and expose it to oxidative stress.
2. Fried foods
- fried fish
- french fries
- fried chicken
- cheese sticks
Fried foods are high in trans fats and calories. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat.
Unsaturated fats could have adverse effects on brain health. This doesn’t refer to trans fats, which occur naturally in animal products.
Consuming bad trans fats has a pro-inflammatory effect. It will increase your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and dementia.
Avoid eating fried foods. Bake or cook foods in olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil.
3. Red Meat
Processed meats such as sausage, bacon, ham, or beef jerky are especially harmful. They’re high in saturated fat, sodium, and nitrates.
Eating red meat increases iron and copper levels in the brain, which increases the rate of reactions by free radicals and thus oxidative stress. Red meat is high in saturated fat, which may promote insulin resistance.
Limit servings to no more than 4 servings per week (preferably lean cuts).
4. Butter and Margarine
Butter and margarine are high in trans fats. These foods are low in nutrients. Butter and margarine result in a lower sugar metabolism rate in the brain and a decrease in brain tissue. On top of that, they result in oxidative stress as well as inflammation.
Limit to less than a tablespoon per day.
Cheese is a whole food and is generally healthy for you unless consumed in excess. Many kinds of cheese are highly processed and have high sugar, sodium, and fat content.
Limit cheese to 1 serving per week or merely sprinkle over a salad. Limit processed cheeses and opt for healthy cheese types such as feta, goat cheese, mozzarella, and swiss.
What is the MIND Diet?
Have you ever heard the term “MIND” diet? It’s short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It combines the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
The DASH diet lowers blood pressure being a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. This diet promotes the use of natural plant-based foods and limits red meat, saturated fat, and sweets.
Here are 15 MIND diet rules. Take a look to see how your diet compares!
- 3 servings of whole grains a day
- Green leafy vegetables at least 6 times per week
- Vegetables at least once per day
- Berries at least twice per week
- Red meat less than 4 times per week
- Fish at least once a week
- Poultry at least twice per week
- Beans more than 3 times per week
- Nuts at least 5 times per week
- Fried or fast food less than once per week
- Mainly olive oil for cooking
- Less than a tablespoon of butter or margarine a day
- Less than a serving of cheese per week
- No more than 5 pastries or sweets a week
- 1 glass of wine or other alcoholic drink a day; keep in mind that as the body ages, the way it handles alcohol changes.
This diet might be somewhat different from the diet you currently follow. So we thought we’d share 5 MIND diet recipes for you to try!
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5 of the Best MIND Diet Recipes
5 simple MIND recipes for you!
1. Salmon-Kale Summer Rolls
- Brown sushi rice (1 cup)
- Light brown sugar (2 teaspoons)
- Rice vinegar (4 ½ tablespoons)
- Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoons)
- 5 Large Kale leaves
- Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
- 8 round rice paper sheets
- 1 ½ sliced radishes
- A single avocado
- 1 ½ cups sliced cucumber
- Smoked salmon (6 ounces)
- Rinse rice under cold running water.
- Boil rice in water for about 1 minute and simmer for 40 seconds.
- Transfer to a medium bowl and add sugar, 3 ½ tablespoons vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Prepare the kale by rubbing with oil and vinegar.
- Add hot water to a shallow dish and add rice paper for 30 seconds.
- Remove the rice sheet and arrange 1/8 radishes, 1/8 cucumbers, and 2 avocado slices in a row across the paper.
- Top with a ¼ cup of rice, ¼ cup kale, and ¾ ounces salmon.
- Roll the paper around ingredients to form a roll.
2. Hazelnut-Crusted Halibut with Beet Root and Spinach Salad
- Whole-wheat pastry flour (1/2 cup)
- 3 large egg whites
- Finely chopped hazelnuts (3/4 cups)
- 4 halibut fillets
- Kosher salt (1 ¼ teaspoon)
- Black pepper (3/4 teaspoons)
- Olive oil (3 tablespoons)
- 3 navel oranges
- Balsamic vinegar (1 ½ tablespoon)
- Beets (2 cups of wedges)
- Baby spinach (5 ounces)
- Sprinkle fillets with ¾ teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoons of pepper.
- Drench each fillet in flower, dip in egg whites and then coat with hazelnuts.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan.
- Add fillets and cook until nuts are toasted and plate.
- Section the oranges.
- Add vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and whisk together.
- Add beets and spinach and plate.
3. Lentil, Arugula, and Avocado Salad
- Plain greek yogurt
- Lemon juice (2 tablespoons)
- Honey (1 tablespoon)
- Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoons)
- Black pepper (1/2 teaspoon)
- Baby arugula (3 cups)
- Thinly sliced radicchio (3 cups)
- Cherry tomatoes (3 cups)
- Roasted pumpkin seeds (1/2 cup)
- Lentils (2 cups)
- Avocado cut into cubes (1)
- Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper.
- Add arugula, radicchio, tomatoes, and a ¼ cup of pumpkin seeds together.
- Coat with the yogurt dressing.
- Add lentils, avocado, and the remaining pumpkin seeds.
- Drizzle with the remaining dressing.
4. Grilled Chicken with Mole Black Beans
- Chicken (8 skinless thighs)
- Ancho chile powder (2 tablespoons)
- Kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon)
- Scallions (4 ounces)
- Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
- Garlic (3 cloves)
- Cumin (1/2 teaspoon)
- Cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon)
- Black beans (30 ounces)
- Dark chocolate (1 ounce finely chopped)
- Red wine (1 tablespoon)
- Vinegar (1 tablespoon)
- Radishes (8 ounces)
- Fresh cilantro (1 cup loosely packed)
- Sprinkle salt and half of chile powder over chicken.
- Coat cast-iron pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high for 5 minutes.
- Add the chicken and cook until charred (about 4 minutes) and plate.
- After that, put scallions to the pan and grill for 2-3 minutes and plate.
- Add to pan oil, onion, and garlic. Stir for 3-4 minutes.
- Add cumin, cinnamon, and the rest of the chile powder and stir for 30 seconds.
- Drain 1 can of beans.
- Add the drained beans, chocolate to the onion mixture and stir in the remaining beans.
- Bring to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add vinegar and salt and stir.
- Add the radishes and cilantro.
- Divide the mixture into 4 servings.
5. Whole-Grain Pasta Primavera
- Whole-wheat penne pasta (8 ounces)
- Broccoli (4 cups)
- Asparagus (12 ounces cut into 2-inch pieces)
- Green peas (1/2 cup)
- Olive oil (1/4 cup)
- Kosher salt (1 teaspoon)
- Red pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon)
- Feta cheese (2 ounces)
- Basil leaves (3/4 cup)
- Add pasta to boiled water and cook for 7 minutes.
- After that, add broccoli and cook for 2 minutes.
- Then, add asparagus and peas and cook for 2 minutes.
- Drain pasta mixture, reserving about a ¾ cup of water.
- Add olive oil, salt, red pepper, feta, and basil.
- Cook until sauce thickens.
- Serve into 4 bowls.
Who Should Follow the Mind Diet?
We should all live healthier. Whether you’re showing signs of dementia or acting preventatively – you can incorporate the MIND Diet into your daily diet. Certain observational studies found that the MIND Diet can decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 53%. It can also slow down deteriorating cognitive function.
Naturally, it may not be possible to adhere to such a diet to the letter. Does this mean you should give up? No!
Studies have shown that even incorporating certain aspects of the diet can cut the risk of dementia.
Supplements to Lower the Risk of Alzheimer’s
At times, we might find it challenging to incorporate adequate amounts of these vitamins into our diets as outlined in this article. An alternative remedy is to use supplements as add-ons to our diet.
Several vitamins and supplements cut the risk of Alzheimer’s by protecting the brain from damage. Supplements that function as antioxidants include coenzyme Q10, beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, and resveratrol.
Other nutrients such as those that come from Ginkgo Biloba and ginseng are said to improve memory, while low levels of vitamin B and D have been more common in those with memory loss. Consult a healthcare professional to determine which supplements you should consider.
Top 3 Points
- The best foods to fight dementia are different kinds of vegetables, fish, berries, nuts, whole grains, beans, poultry, olive oil, herbs & seeds, seeds, dark chocolate, wine, and coffee.
2. The 5 worst types of foods for memory are pastries and sweets, fried foods, red meat, butter & margarine, and excess cheese.
3. The term “MIND” is short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The MIND diet combines the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
Clearly, dietary changes and supplements have a vital role to fight dementia. It is important that we all try to implement the suggestions made above into our day-to-day lives. These small changes have the potential to make a significant impact in the fight against disorders that affect memory loss.
To beat dementia, include leafy green vegetables, berries, nuts, and fish in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are especially beneficial for preserving cognitive function. On the other hand, processed foods, sugary drinks, and saturated fats should be avoided if you want to keep your mind healthy.
We hope you found our blog useful and feel motivated to start your journey towards a more healthy and happy life!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the number one food that fights dementia?
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, cabbage, lettuce, etc. are the best foods to beat dementia. Also, foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, nuts, etc. Are very good for memory.
Why do dementia patients spit out food?
There are many reasons why dementia patients might spit out their food. One possibility is that they may not be able to chew or swallow properly, which can cause them to gag and choke. Additionally, some patients may find the taste or texture of food unappealing and will consequently spit it out. Finally, dementia can also lead to changes in mood and behavior, which might manifest as a rejection of food.
Does spicy food cause dementia?
Some recent studies have found some links between spicy food and dementia. Eating a lot of spicy food may have a negative impact on cognitive function, leading to dementia.
Is choking on food a symptom of dementia?
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients often struggle with swallowing food which leads to choking. So, it could be a symptom of dementia.