Do you ever have those moments when you open the fridge and you can’t remember what you went for? Or perhaps you go upstairs on a very specific mission and then totally forget what that super important item was? Anybody do this?
I did this all the time whilst I was pregnant, which I know is very common, but later in life? My dad has always referred to these as ‘senior moments’.
On a more serious note though, Dementia Awareness Week is coming up soon (14-20th May 2017) – so let’s get practical about what we can do to improve our memory and raise awareness of dementia.
Food and memory
We’ve all heard people say “that’s brain food” – my grandmother used to say that to me every time she cooked fish – but what does the food you eat have to do with how your brain functions? Turns out an awful lot. Whilst we’ve always known that what we eat affects our bodies and how we look, scientists are also learning more and more that what we eat takes a toll on our brains. Yes, brain foods matter.
Our gut helps keep our body’s immune responses and inflammation under control. Additionally, gut hormones that enter the brain or are produced in the brain influence cognitive ability, like our way of understanding and processing new information, remaining focused on the task at hand and even recognising when we are full.
Many good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and aid in protecting against brain diseases. So when we focus on giving our bodies whole, nutritious foods and specific drinks, benefiting both the gut and the brain, we’re actually benefiting our minds and bodies while keeping them both in good shape.
Some things are better than others of course, but by fueling your body with some great brain foods you are investing in your future – call it health insurance perhaps?
With Dementia set to become the 21st century’s biggest killer, and the need for care homes for dementia care going through the roof, why wouldn’t you try to protect yourselves and your family from this awful disease?
Before we get onto food, let’s talk about what we drink. Green Tea, which has a huge range of health benefits has been shown to help to both prevent and possibly even reverse various types of dementia. Green tea contains antioxidants which according to research may help to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Whilst, like most things more research is needed, if you like green tea, you may as well get drinking it!
Coconut oil is something I love. For cooking with and for using on the skin. There are so many amazing benefits of coconut oil, which I intend to cover in another post at some point. There’s virtually nothing that this superfood can’t help with. Coconut oil works as a natural anti-inflammatory, suppressing cells responsible for inflammation. It can help with memory loss as you age and destroy bad bacteria that hangs out in your gut.
There is a large US study currently on-going – the results of this are due out later this year – looking into how effective coconut oil can be in the treatment of Dementia, in particular, Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, I’m not saying that you should consume huge quantities, but building this into your diet somewhere could help.
This fruit, yes, ‘fruit’, is one of the healthiest ones you can consume. Avocados often get bad press because of their high fat content, but we have to remember that not all fats are the same. These green fruits are packed with monosaturated fats or the “good” kind, keeping blood sugar levels steady and your skin glowing.
Containing both vitamin K and folate, avocados help prevent blood clots in the brain, as well as help improve cognitive function, especially both memory and concentration.
Plus, they have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit and contain both B and C vitamins. You can eat them with a salad, add them to a smoothie, or for a real brain booster, why not add them to a dish of salmon and poached eggs – yummy!
In particular blueberries, but all berries will help. The easiest way to get your daily dose might well be in a smoothie or juice. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. The high levels of gallic acid in blueberries mean that they are a great food for protecting our brains from stress and degeneration.
Do you remember being told to “eat your broccoli” when you were little? Did you listen? I don’t think I did until my late teens, so the fact that I can get 3 out of my 4 children to eat it and they are all 10 and under feels like a parenting win and makes me want to do a little happy dance.
The high levels of vitamin K and choline make broccoli one of the best brain foods out there. It is also full of fibre and vitamin C – make it a firm favourite in your house.
Celery is something I remember my mum putting in Spag Bol when I was a child. I always wondered why, and was never a massive fan but eat the stuff everyday now. Celery is very low in calories, so it is often considered one of those ‘free’ foods that you can eat plenty of.
Its high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides act as natural anti-inflammatories and can help alleviate symptoms related to inflammation, like joint pain and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
You could snack on it, cook with it, use it to dip into salsa, or even add it to a juice or smoothie.
Now this is specifically dark chocolate and not all chocolate, so don’t assume you can just nibble on your favourite bar of Cadbury’s. Dark chocolate is full of flavonols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart, so learn to love it!
I love eggs. Poached eggs to be specific, but really any eggs are nice. Again, a food thought for years to be VERY bad for you, eggs are now taking the glory for a range of things.
Yolks contain large amounts of choline, which helps in fetal brain development for pregnant women. It also breaks down bethane, a chemical that produces hormones related to happiness.
If you’ve kept away from eating eggs whole because of comments about cholesterol concerns, think again. Studies show that eating eggs had no effect on the cholesterol levels of healthy adults and might, in fact, help raise good cholesterol levels.
These are not something I eat but my dad LOVES them and has them growing in his back garden on some beautiful trees.
Just munching on a few walnuts a day can improve your cognitive health. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals also improve mental alertness. The vitamin E in the nuts can also help ward off Alzheimer’s.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Now I do admit to being a little obsessed by kale and spinach. We eat loads at home and I try to get some into every meal. Getting regular helpings of leafy green brain foods can help keep dementia at bay according to new research.
These kind of vegetables are also loaded with vitamins A and K, which help fight inflammation and keep bones strong.
Like eggs, salmon is one of my favourite foods ever! Salmon is one of the most nutritious, brain food-friendly foods out there. So make sure you are serving it up at home on a regular basis. It’s packed with omega-3 fatty acids to help keep your brain running smoothly and improve memory.
This is often thought of as a simple spice with amazing health benefits. It is an ancient root that’s been used for its healing properties throughout history. Thanks to curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, the spice is actually one of the most powerful and natural of course, anti-inflammatory agents.
Turmeric also helps boost antioxidant levels and keep your immune system healthy, while also improving your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information.
Why not add it to…everything!
Clearly, I’m not saying that if you eat one of these things all the time you won’t get dementia, but food can be used as both a prevention tactic and could be part of the cure, so why not invest in your health and eat well? Let’s try and reduce the stress on dementia care in the future.