It goes without saying that no one ever wants to increase the risk of developing dementia. And while we know some of the risk factors, like being a couch potato and drinking too much, we also still have much to learn. Luckily, research is always being done on dementia, and some of the new information is pretty promising.
Still, the best way to fight dementia is to prevent it from happening in the first place. And there are plenty of things you can do daily to help with that, including making improvements to your diet.
Diet and dementia
It’s a well-known fact that what you eat can have a huge impact on your health. While the link between diet and dementia isn’t entirely clear, research shows that eating right can boost your memory — and, on the flip side, some everyday foods like sugar and processed meats may actually increase your dementia risk. The bottom line: Diet matters.
Berries and cherries
Berries and cherries contain anthocyanin, which protects the brain from further damage caused by free radicals. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and contain antioxidants as well as lots of Vitamin C.
If your diet contains daily Omega 3s, you’ll have a 26% less of a chance of developing brain lesions that lead to dementia. Fatty fish like salmon are the best source, but you’ll also find omega 3s in flax seeds, olive oil, and walnuts.
Enjoy some whole grains like quinoa, kammut, or gluten free oats. According to The Whole Grains Council, grain-based foods can boost your cognitive health and extend your life. The Mediterranean diet includes plenty of grains, so this makes sense.
Good news, wine lovers: One glass of vino a day can help you prevent cognitive decline. Research has shown that a very moderate amount of alcohol is associated with a lower dementia risk.
Dessert isn’t off limits even when you’re trying to eat for your brain health. According to Harvard Health, small amounts of dark chocolate provide your body with flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Load up on leafy greens
If you’re not a fan of leafy greens, you may want to learn to love them. According to a recent study published in the journal Neurology, nutrients found in leafy green vegetables might make your mind 11 years younger. Researchers found that those who ate one or two servings of green leafy veggies every day had slower rates of cognitive decline.
What exactly are leafy greens?
Leafy green vegetables include everything from commonly known things like spinach, kale, and romaine lettuce to microgreens, which are the underdeveloped greens of vegetables such as kale, arugula, and broccoli. Thanks to their abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they’re considered the MVPs of the produce section.
Other nutritional benefits of leafy greens
Leafy green veggies are proven dementia-fighters, but their health benefits go beyond the brain. They’ll help you manage your weight since they’re low in calories and high in dietary fiber. They’ll also lower your cancer risk and risk of heart disease, improve the function of your immune system, and protect you from cataracts, just to name a few.
How to eat your greens
The easiest way to make sure you’re eating plenty of leafy greens is to eat a big salad every day. But to add some variety and prevent monotony in your diet, you can mix things up with some creative recipes, such as burritos wrapped in collard greens or spinach and kale turnovers.
A green smoothie a day keeps the dementia away
Another great way to get your greens first thing in the morning is to toss them into your breakfast smoothie. Spinach, kale, and microgreens can blend into practically any concoction, and it’s a very healthy way to start your day.
The Mediterranean diet
If you enjoy the foods in the Mediterranean diet, you’re in luck: It’s the one diet with a proven dementia risk. The diet has other benefits as well, such as a lower risk of heart disease and early death, so you may want to familiarize yourself with the meal plan.
However, if you want to fight dementia with your diet, there is one food you should make sure to eat every day.
The perfect dementia-fighting meal
The best part about some of these dementia-fighting foods is that they can be combined to provide maximum benefits. For example, this Brain Power Salad contains spinach, blueberries, salmon, and avocado and chia seeds, which are also brain-boosters. Have one of these for dinner with a small glass of red wine and a little dark chocolate for dessert to keep your mind sharp.
Fighting dementia with your diet
Leafy greens are incredibly important in the fight against dementia. But if you’re not a fan or you can’t stomach them every day, fear not — there are plenty of other foods that can make your brain younger. Make a goal of eating at least one of them every day and you’ll be doing your body and mind a big favor.
Other ways to prevent dementia
A diet rich in leafy greens and other “brain foods” is important in the battle against dementia. But there are plenty of other easy things you can do to reduce your risk. Taking a Vitamin K supplement, doing crossword puzzles, and getting plenty of sleep are also great brain-boosters.