When I was 14 years old, my grandfather died of Alzheimer’s disease. I remember the years leading up to his death and how quickly his mind wore away.
I’d accompany my father to the hospital and be shocked to watch my grandfather drinking imaginary tea from an imaginary tea cup, talking to himself, and not recognizing his son at all.
I don’t have many memories from my childhood but these are definitely some of the worst.
I watch my 3 year-old whose memory is utterly fantastic, not clouded at all by all of the toxins and pollutants that have begun to fog my own brain. And as I watch her, I cannot imagine not knowing who she is 30 or 40 years from now.
Alzheimer’s and dementia are some of the scariest and most emotionally-triggering degenerative diseases. But they are easier to prevent than previously thought.
If you have a family history of one of these diseases or are worried about what they may do to you as you age, one of the first things you can do is modify your diet.
Here are 10 foods you should add into your diet that can help improve your mind:
1. Leafy greens. Some ideas: kale, spinach, collard and mustard greens. These foods are high in folate and B9, which improve cognition and reduce depression.
2. Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussels sprouts and kale contain folate and have cartenoids that lower homo-cysteine (an amino acid linked with cognitive impairment).
3. Beans and legumes. These foods contain more folate, iron, magensium and potassium that can help with general body function and neuron firing. They also contain choline, a B vitamin that boosts acetylcholine (a neuro transmitter critical for brain function).
4. Whole grains. Good bets include quinoa, kammut and gluten-free oats (not bread and cereal)
5. Berries and cherries. These fruits contain anthocyanin that protects the brain from further damage caused by free radicals. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and contain antioxidants and lots of vitamin C and E.
6. Pumpkin, squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots and beets. These vegetables, if not overcooked, contain vitamin A, folate and iron that help with cognition.
7. Omega 3s. People whose diets contain daily omega 3s have been shown to have 26% less risk of having brain lesions that cause dementia compared with those who do not. These fatty acids help the brain to stay in top shape. You can get your omega fatty acids from fish, flax seeds, olive oil (not safflower) or by taking a good quality omega 3 supplement.
8. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecans. All of these nuts contain omega-3s and omega-6s, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
9. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. These seeds contain zinc, choline and vitamin E.
10. Cinnamon, sage, tumeric and cumin. Theses spices can all help to break up brain plaque and reduce inflammation of the brain which can cause memory issues. In addition to eating the foods listed above, you’ll want to decrease the risk of illnesses that can make your brain age such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.
Encourage healthy decisions, conscientiousness, positive peer groups, a clean environment, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, 8 hours of sleep, stress management and gratitude.