“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” This saying is attributed to Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and dates from 400 B.C. Even thousands of years ago, humans acknowledged the importance of nutrition and its vital role in maintaining health and preventing disease.
Top Brain Foods for Seniors
Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia, and nearly 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year. While age is a strong predictor of cognitive decline, dementia is not a natural part of aging. Factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and an unhealthy diet can increase the risk of cognitive decline. By eating well, you’re nourishing your brain.
What are some brain foods for seniors that can help ward off cognitive decline? While the list below is by no means exhaustive, here are some top brain foods for seniors to consider including as part of a healthy diet.
Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardine or halibut several times a week. They contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, termed essential fatty acids because your brain needs a healthy level of these fats to function. Fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are part of the brain’s primary structure, and a lack of DHA has been linked to poor mental function and impaired brain size. While there is debate about whether farmed or wild-caught salmon is better, a study found that eating farmed Atlantic salmon twice a week was effective at raising levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood, helping the brain operate more efficiently.
According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, inflammation is the single greatest marker of aging. In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, levels of inflammation are higher due to lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts are rich in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals that help to reduce this inflammation in the blood. Walnuts in particular are among the top brain foods for seniors, as they contain high levels of DHA and Vitamin E, enhancing the ability of the brain to remove toxic proteins and repair tissue damage from free radicals. Just a handful of unsalted nuts every day had significant benefits for the brain, and also reduced the risk of dying from heart disease by almost 30%.
Just Brew It
The medicinal effect of tea has been revered since ancient times. Now, modern research has shown that a daily cup of tea protects the brain from damage and degeneration. Tea leaves contain compounds and antioxidants that are beneficial to controlling inflammation and toxicity in the body. According to a study by the National University of Singapore, drinking green or black tea lowered the risk of cognitive decline by about 50%, and for seniors who are genetically predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, it can reduce the risk by as much as 86%. The benefits are not limited to a certain type of tea, as long as the tea is brewed from tea leaves.
Yolk it Up
Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient used by our body to build and maintain our cells. It helps produce neurotransmitters (the chemicals that allow nerve cells in the brain to communicate) that help our brain and nervous system function, including our memory. Eating choline-rich foods such as egg yolks has been linked to a lower risk of dementia and supports verbal and visual memory skills. Apart from eggs, other sources of choline include meats such as liver, fruits, leafy greens and dairy.
Eat Your Colors
One of the most popular brain foods for seniors is the humble blueberry. Packed with antioxidants, blueberries have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function, and potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies back this up, including MRI imaging showing a difference in brain function as people ate blueberries, and research showing women aged 70 and older who ate more berries slowed down the rate of mental decline. It doesn’t matter if they are fresh, frozen, canned or juiced, a daily serving of blueberries can delay cognitive aging by up to two and half years. The researchers noted that other foods of the same color, including red cabbage, pomegranates and grape juice, are also beneficial.
What’s on the Menu?
Preparing healthy, nutritious meals every day takes planning, effort and time. Why not make it easier? When you sit down for a chef-prepared meal at The Buckingham, you can be sure your meal is made with the freshest ingredients, with options to suit your dietary needs.
We also offer an innovative dining program for health care residents called Real Food First®. It’s dedicated to providing appetizing, high-quality meal solutions for health care residents who are having challenges maintaining a healthy diet. Memory care residents who may be struggling with using utensils are catered to with a component of this program called Grind DiningTM. Nutrient-packed and beautifully presented finger foods restore independence and dignity to their dining experience.
If you and a loved one would like to sample a meal with us, we’d be happy to oblige. Contact us to arrange a convenient personal appointment.