How is everyone’s week going? In sharing our journey with Alzheimer’s I’ve had so many questions that center around whether I fear the disease for myself and my children. That is a loaded question and one that I may address down the road. But one thing is for certain, food matters. What we put into our bodies has a tremendous impact on our brain. I read anything and everything I can and when it comes to brain health, I want to be as proactive as possible. Today I want to share foods that I continuously incorporate into my diet (and my family’s diet) to keep my brain as healthy as possible.
You may have heard about the benefits of Mediterranean diet. In major studies, it has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Cancer and Alzheimer’s are both a significant part of our family so this hits home to me.
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
- Replacing butter with a healthy fat such as olive oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Enjoying meals with family and friends
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
- Getting plenty of exercise
Besides reading up about the Mediterranean diet and its immense benefits, certain foods have been found to ultimately lead to increased memory and overall brain health.
One of the foods that wasn’t always a part of my diet is walnuts. But the more I read, the more I realize that I want them in my diet. That crazy thing is that the shape of them even resembles a brain. Here is a list of foods that I incorporate into our diet on a regular basis.
The only thing I have to avoid on this list are eggs (my body does not agree with them), but my family still loves them. Here is a breakdown of some of the benefits from each of these foods.
Eating walnuts can improve cognitive health. They contain vitamin E which can fight off Alzheimer’s.
Packed with antioxidants and thought to delay brain aging and boost memory. Contain high levels of gallic acid, so they are especially good at protecting our brains from degeneration and stress. Can fight against short term memory loss.
Great source of choline and the B vitamins associated with proper brain function and regulating mood.
Salmon is a rich source of omega-3s, a major building block of the brain. Omega-3s play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against decline. It can also increase focus in children and adults.
Lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, can help protect against free radicals which have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Fruit with the highest protein content and lowest sugar. They contain vitamin K and folate which help protect against blood clots in the brain and help memory and concentration.
Contains vitamin K (associated with better memory in adults) and is believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Leafy greens like chard, kale, spinach and romaine can keep dementia at bay. Research has shown that individuals who make leafy greens a large part of their diet see slower mental deterioration than in individuals who do not consume them.
May boost mood, memory and brain function by boosting blood flow to the brain. Be sure it’s at least 70% cocoa.
We need energy to focus. Brown whole grains release glucose slowly into the bloodstream keeping us alert through the day.
Carnosic acid is found in rosemary which fends off chemical free radicals. That means it can protect the brain from neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, and strokes.
Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which help the brain. In research, it has reduced symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Helps to fight against proteins that are toxic in the brain that can induce Alzheimer’s. Boosts memory and aids in age-related diseases. Best at room temperature or cold.
Natural anti-inflammatory with too many benefits to count. Can help with memory as you age.
rotisserie chicken from costco | cucumber | humus | walnuts | blueberries
As moms we are all crazy busy. But that doesn’t mean we get a free pass to forget about making our own healthy lunches. I feel like my friends and I fall into one of two camps. Either “too busy” and don’t eat lunch at all or “too busy” and grab something quick and junky. Both routes aren’t doing anything positive for our brains. I have to make this a practice. Because it’s important to me, I am making every effort to have these healthy foods in the fridge and pantry at all times.
TIP: Print out the list of brain healthy foods and have it posted nearby.
Above is one of my very favorite lunches. I’ve come to realize that it’s best if I make a snack dish for myself. I can incorporate more healthy foods and it’s not time-consuming to throw together. As long as I am hitting at least three or more brain healthy foods I feel like I’ve done a good job. The humus is topped with olive oil, pepper and turmeric. The Persian cucumbers are my go-to in place of chips. They are very mild and give me the crunch I often crave. I also will swap those out for sweet potato chips when I really need that salty fix.
Tomatoes and avocados are staples around here. I often chop a tomato and let it sit in olive oil and garlic for about 20 minutes. Then I toss in chopped avocado and a protein. If we made salmon the night before, I will eat it with that or rotisserie chicken.
This is another go-to lunch of mine. Organic chicken strips from Costco alongside avocado toast on whole grain bread. I sprinkle it with the “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s.
IN ALL HONESTY
Let’s be very clear. My diet is far from perfect and I have plenty of crappy meals hear and there. I need to be honest. But I am making an effort each week to buy these foods and have them in the house. They truly are foods I love and cook with the most so that is already a head start. If these aren’t your go-to items, maybe start with one or two. I am happy to post recipes I make incorporating these foods if that would be helpful. Just let me know.
Here’s to women encouraging each other to stay strong and healthy. Our families need us and while we can’t control many things in this life, our eating is one that we can. Let’s give our brains as much help as we can. Who’s in?
To read more about our journey with Alzheimer’s head to my sidebar or this page on my blog.
*Please consult your doctor when making major changes to your diet. I am not an expert and have put together this list after my extensive research on the topic of Alzheimer’s.
Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I would be interested in seeing recipes – always good to have new inspiration! My daughter has recently grown a liking to walnuts. Happy to encourage that healthy snack. And avocado toast is a huge favorite of mine.
You are so welcome, Nicole. I still have a lot to learn but reading as much as I can. I will absolutely share some recipes. I love that your daughter is liking walnuts. That’s incredible. I am still trying to get my daughter on board. She ate them on top of an appetizer the other day so that is a start. And long live avocado toast, right?! Have a great day.
This is a great post. Having been recently diagnosed with Diabetes this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I appreciate you putting this together. It seems like a great starting point.
BTW, I’m dying to know what’s going on with your kitchen! 🙂
Julie, I am so happy it can help. Sometimes we just need a jump start. The kitchen was photographed yesterday so I am hoping to share it on the blog next week! So excited.
Do you know how cooking affects the nutritional value and therefore the brain-boosting powers of the vegetables you mention? I really can’t stand raw tomatoes (unless they’re in salsa or bruschetta), but I enjoy them roasted and in sauces.
Lea Ann says
Courtney-Thank you so much for sharing this information. I know you’ve done your research as you have a vested interest in this topic. However, I’m confident even if this wasn’t a personal issue you’d make efforts to take good care of youself and your family. My husband and I are making a concentrated effort to eat healthy and this post was incredibly helpful.
Best to you and your mom. Your love for her is so evident in each post.
I love this post! I was just trying to get my son to eat blueberries this morning and showed him this post! I also love the lunch ideas…it is all too easy to just grab something random when I don’t want to prepare a meal for just myself. The snack plate idea is perfect…for the kids, too. Thanks so much, this was so interesting and useful both for brain health and just healthy eating in general!
Grandma Sue says
A healthy snack I used to take to work: wedge of Laughing Cow cheese and walnuts or pecans to scoop and eat the yummy low calorie cheese. This would make a great after school snack or on the go treat as there are no containers or utensils involved.
Would love any healthy recipes! Love this post! Also, loved the quote, “ what isn’t wrong right now ?” Never, ever thought if it that way, but so true. Usually concentrate on all the thing going wrong, when there are so many things going right. Thank you for putting this in perspective for me! ❤️
Great post! Since my mom passed away of cancer, I’m trying to eat better. It’s not always easy though to motivate myself to make healthy meals while also dealing with grief but I’m getting there. I love walnuts on my salad or yogurt. I recently started adding coconut oil to my smoothies! I love salmon but my hubby doesn’t do that’s tough.
I really enjoyed this healthy eating post! So many great ideas on what to eat and how to eat it . I love the snack plate style of eating it’s one of my favorite ways to eat!
I also just love the quote you shared about what’s Not wrong right now , thank you for all the goodness you so often share with all of us ????
This was a great post! As a fellow “Parent with Alzheimer’s” reader, I appreciate having the list of great foods, and would love to see more recipes. I am currently reading “Brain Food,” which talks about the foods our brain needs and must have to be high functioning, and what it doesn’t need much of, in a very easy to understand and interesting way. My kids actually hid my book from me, as they didn’t want only brain food going forward, but I think that’s the key, finding ways to incorporate these brain foods in our/kids diets without realizing it, and you are on your way! Keep the posts coming! You are in inspiration to us all.
Thank you so much for sharing this! I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the items you listed we are already incorporating everyday…except the walnuts. I’m getting a big bag from Costco! My father past away last year from this horrible disease. It was a long painful journey for our family. I love your posts with your mom as well. She’s so cute.