Lifestyle Choices – Diet

Feed Your Brain!

“You are what you eat” holds true for successful aging. A healthy diet is important for overall health, including brain health. It can also help prevent obesity and other health problems and diseases, such as diabetes, which are risk factors for dementia.

To eat right for brain health, current research suggests these steps:

  • Eat a well-balanced heart-healthy diet.
  • Increase intake of colored, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, including those rich in vitamin E (e.g., blackberries, blueberries, spinach, broccoli) and beta-carotene (e.g., leafy green and yellow vegetables like broccoli, sweet potatoes).
  • Consume a typical “Mediterranean” diet rich in mono-saturated fatty acids.
  • Have at least two servings of baked or broiled fish each week.
  • Include whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, lean meats, poultry fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
  • Eat foods, like fruits and vegetables, to control blood sugar levels.
  • Include Omega-3 fatty acids—found in cold water fish such as salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines and lake trout, green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oil and walnuts.
  • Eat foods that contain B6 and B12—found in bananas, beans and chicken breasts (B6) and shellfish, salmon, trout, liver and lean beef (B12).
  • Consume foods rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the brain from the formation of free radicals—found in berries like blueberries and blackberries, nuts such as walnuts and pecans, vegetables such as artichokes and red cabbage, and spices such as turmeric and ground cinnamon.

Avoid:

  • Red meats
  • Saturated fats
  • Salt
  • Added sugars
  • Fried foods
  • Processed foods
  • Trans-fatty acids

Good nutrition also includes taking daily vitamins and limiting alcohol consumption.

Food Pyramid

Just what should you being eating and how much? It’s all about a balanced diet. Eating the right food and the right amount provide the nutrients you need and help build muscle and energy.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set up a tool, MyPyramid, which calculates your ideal food pyramid. The pyramid emphasizes a daily “balancing act”—the “energy in” or calories you take in from foods and beverages versus the “energy out” or calories you burn for basic body functions and physical activity.