Dementia is a genuine concern for many adults as they get older, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most prevalent type for seniors across Canada. There are currently over 500,000 seniors in Canada that are affected by dementia, and that number continues to climb as the age demographic in Canada gets increasingly higher.
Generally, treatments and prevention methods for Alzheimer’s are geared towards mind strengthening activities that are designed to boost brain stimulation and establish healthy connections.
Numerous studies from extensive research indicate that the types of foods we eat also have the potential to stave off dementia, improve cognitive function, and generally contribute to better brain health.
Superfoods to Enhance Memory and Brain Health
Connections found between increased consumption of a variety of superfoods and the reduction of dementia rates have many seniors and caregivers searching for more information about best practices and which food groups to target.
Some types of foods, and the components that make them so healthy, that are thought to improve memory and cognitive function are:
- Healthy oils
Antioxidants are molecules or compounds found in some of the foods we eat, that prevent cell damage caused by foreign substances known as free radicals. An excess of free radicals in the body can cause oxidative stress which can lead to cell and tissue damage. Heavy accumulation of free radicals has been thought to play a role in the onset of heart disease, brain disorders, and cancer.
Antioxidants help restore balance to the system and prevent cellular damage. The body produces its own antioxidant defense which can sometimes be insufficient. Free radicals can be generated by unhealthy foods, excess alcohol consumption, smoking, pesticides, chemicals, and air pollutants.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods can help boost brain function, relieve stress, and prevent chronic illness like cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.
Foods to target that are high in antioxidants include:
- Acai berries, blueberries, goji berries
- Dark chocolate
- Dark leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, squash
- Green tea
- Whole Grains
- Salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel
Foods rich in omega–3 fatty acids can help slow mental decline and the onset of Alzheimer’s. Omega-3s not only play a substantial role in brain development they also help maintain healthy and normal brain function. They naturally occur in brain cells but diets that lack omega-3 intake can end up resulting in learning and memory deficits.
Omega-3s can contribute to improved brain, bone, and joint health while reducing the risk of heart disease, mental disorders, and other chronic health conditions.
Good sources of omega-3s include:
- Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, sea bass
- Oily fish – sardines, herring, anchovies
- Oysters, shrimp
- Fish oil, cod liver oil
- Nuts, beans & seeds
Most people do not eat enough fish and seafood in their diets to get sufficient omega-3 intake. Omega-3 supplements can also be helpful.
I am sure it comes as no surprise to hear that vegetables are good for your health. The leafy green variety in particular is associated with improved mental function, helping protect the brain from cognitive decline and dementia.
Vegetables to target include:
- Collard greens
- Sweet potatoes, squash, carrots
While it is no shock that vegetables are good for brain health, with all the negative press surrounding caffeine it may be surprising to hear it is also good for brain function. In moderation of course.
Foods and beverages containing caffeine are linked to enhanced brain productivity and improved memory. This could explain why the majority of the population turns to coffee or tea upon first waking up in the morning.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, making you feel more focused and alert. While small doses of caffeine can increase brain activity in a positive manner, it is important not to overdo it.
Sources of caffeine:
- Dark chocolate
- Protein bars
- Hot chocolate
Some healthy oils, like coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, have been found to have brain-protecting qualities. The reason these oils are considered healthy is that they are cholesterol-free and don’t contain any trans-fats.
Coconut oil contains molecules called ketones that can help improve brain function by providing a more stable and sustainable energy source. Choosing healthy oils for your cooking has been associated with better brain function as well as cardiovascular health.
Healthy oils can include:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Algae oil
- Walnut oil
- Peanut oil