I’ve had a few people ask me recently what they should do to prevent dementia and memory decline as they get older. It’s sort of a strange question, but I find my parent’s generation (born in the 1950s) are starting to experience the declining health (physical & mental) of their parents. As they see what’s happening with their parents (some memory decline, dementia, and failing health); it’s only natural to wonder about their own aging process.
I’ve been reading a great book for my nutrition course called “Optimum Nutrition for the Mind” by Patrick Holford, and I came across a list of tips to keep your memory & mind sharp and decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s one day.
1. Eat fish, nuts & seeds that are high in Omega-3s. Omega-3 is a super-vitamin for your brain. It is a healthy fat that keeps your brain processes in tip-top shape. Eat cold water fish such as salmon (wild not farmed, smoked & canned are fine), herring, sardines (canned are fine), mackerel or trout 2-3 times per week. These fish are also the lowest in mercury levels. Seeds & nuts that are highest in Omega-3 include: raw pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds & walnuts. Have them as snacks or put them in your yogurt, oatmeal or salads.
2. Eat eggs. They are rich in the “smart fats: phospholipids” and a source of Omega-3. Omega-3 rich eggs are even better because their chickens are fed flaxseeds. And don’t worry about the cholesterol levels in eggs. We need a certain amount of cholesterol to stay healthy, and it’s a myth that eating eggs will put you at greater risk for heart disease (Holford, pg. 48). Get an Omega-3 boost with my healthy, easy, yummy Smoked Salmon Frittata recipe!
3. Eat complex carbs or whole grains instead of refined carbs. Whole grains are full of vitamins & minerals that are essential for proper brain functions. Brown rice, quinoa, barley, wheatberries, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal are just a few examples of delicious whole grains that are easily incorporated into your diet.
4. Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants (they block free radicals from exhaust fumes, smoking, processed fats, etc. that attack our cells). Eat antioxidant-rich fruits & veggies such as berries, spinach, kale, broccoli, green beans, brussel sprouts, carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers. You can also go to your local health food store and pick up an antioxidant supplement that will include Vitamins E, A & C and coenzyme Q10.
5. Avoid hydrogenated fats in junk food, fast food and regular peanut butter (buy all-natural PB where the ingredient is ‘just peanuts’). Avoid excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol – they all have negative affects on your brain functions.
6. Avoid food coloring and MSG (monosodium glutamate). You can easily avoid these if you stay away from processed foods (MSG is a common ingredient in chips, sauces, burgers, salad dressings, boullion cubes and gravies), and check the ingredient list. If it says “yellow” or “red” or “flavour enhancer” don’t buy it!
7. Take a good multivitamin & B50 complex as needed. Jamieson makes a good multi called “Vita-Vim” and a good B50 complex that are ‘360 pure’ (no additives). If you eat a diet of fresh fruits & veggies, whole grains and lean protein most of the time; taking vitamins everyday is not necessary. All of us have days where we don’t eat as well as we should, so taking a multi-vitamin and B50 complex on those days is good insurance.
8. Use it or lose it. Do activities everyday that stimulate your brain such as Sudoku puzzles, the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, card games, learn a new language or take dance lessons. Our brain is like a muscle; if you don’t exercise it; it will become weak and useless.
9. Exercise. It’s so important for our physical and mental health to stay active. Not only does exercising release endorphins, which gives you a natural high, but it cleans out dangerous toxins, burns fat, builds muscle, improves circulation, etc, etc. Try and do an activity that will raise your heart rate for at least 15-20 minutes to get the most benefits.
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