Brain Foods for Seniors: The Healthiest Foods for a Strong Memory
The brain is as vital to a senior as it is for a young adult about to turn twenty-five. When people approach seniority, topics about brain health are even more relevant to overall well-being. While most seniors are in good mental health, others are at risk of developing a neurological disorder, especially dementia, and depression.
But as lifespans get longer and research gets deeper, doctors, as well as the older population, can better understand the elements of aging and the common needs that come with the natural process.
For example, when you take proactive steps like learning more about brain foods for seniors, you can reduce your or a loved one’s risk of developing dementia or other mental conditions.
Brain Foods for Seniors
Scientists have determined that the brain needs a certain amount of nutrients to operate well. For example, studies prove that high intakes of fats and cholesterol are associated with higher risks of Alzheimer’s.
So, let’s take a look at foods, by categories, that act as high fuels for a functional brain.
Anti-Oxidant Rich Foods
This type of nutrient attacks free radicals in the body and prevents or reduces damage caused by oxidation. Free radicals are molecules produced when the body breaks down food or even when you’re exposed to tobacco smoke or radiation. This category of nutrients includes foods such as:
- Colorful fruits and vegetables
- Fish and olive oils
- Fruit juices
- Dark chocolate
- Red wine
People can benefit from consuming these foods regularly over a long time and can find that it provides their brains with protection against – oxygen. Yes, oxygen. When we consume food, we must also consume oxygen, which makes us age. In other words, people who live the longest tend to each meal with anti-oxidants or simply eat a lot less food in general.
Although food has both negative and positive effects, it all depends on how well people control their consumption. But it’s even more critical for elders to pay extra attention to their diet because whatever they consume will support or affect cellular function throughout their body.
And the cellular function is responsible for either strengthening or breaking the immune system and warding off physical and mental illness altogether.
Omega- 3 Fatty Acids
Most mainstream health organizations recommend a minimum of 250 – 500 milligrams of omega 3s per day for most healthy adults. Some foods with high amounts of this component include:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
The body can’t produce Vitamin B on its own, so keeping up with a diet that supplements this water-soluble vitamin can have a benefit on elders. Foods that include the vitamin include:
- Fortified Cereal
- Fortified Nutritional Yeast
Now let’s get into the details for some of the foods mentioned above. Although there is no magic pill to prevent cognitive decline, a healthy dietary pattern can make a difference.
- Dark, leafy vegetables – Leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and collards are highly rich in brain-healthy nutrients like folate, beta carotene, and vitamin K. Some research suggests these plants can help slow cognitive decline.
- Walnuts- Nuts are considered great sources of protein and healthy fats. Walnuts, specifically, are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This fatty acid helps lower blood pressure and protect arteries, which is good for both the heart and brain.
- Fish- As mentioned above, fatty fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. But elders must make sure that the fish they consume is low in mercury. Some of these products include salmon, cod, and canned light tuna. Healthy dietary consumption of these types of fish can happen at least twice a week.
Avoid Unhealthy Foods
Fried foods are known to have high percentages of fat and cholesterol, which can contribute to impaired memory and learning. Unline anti-oxidants that act against inflammation, unhealthy foods are considered to be part of inflammatory diets.
For example, high consumption of foods with a high glycemic load (carbohydrates) like white bread can cause inflammation of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that affects aspects of memory, as well as responsiveness to fullness cues and hunger.
A study looked at older adults who consumed over 50% of their daily calories in the form of carbohydrates. The study found that the participants had almost double the risk of mild mental impairment and dementia.
These types of unhealthy foods include products high in sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats, and processed foods. Older adults should avoid the following foods if they want to preserve good brainpower:
- Sodas, energy drinks and high fructose juice
- Foods made with white flour
- Industrially produced trans fats (margarine, snack foods, prepackaged cookies, etc.)
- High processed foods (chips, instant noodles, store-bought sauces, ready-made meals)
- Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
- Fish high in mercury (wild varieties of seafood)
Other factors play into healthy aging too. Here are three practices to keep a healthy brain after digging into healthy brain diets:
Practice Using Your Memory
Engaging in memory exercises can help improve short, as well as long-term recall. What do these exercises look like? Simple daily tasks like making a grocery list, doing math in your head, drawing a map, or even memorizing the lyrics to a song.
Higher levels of daily movement are linked to better thinking and memory skills. According to a study, physical activity can even protect the brain, even when Alzheimer’s is developing in the brain. Exercise, in a way, can mask the symptoms. And, while intense activity and exercise are the most recommended practice, even light activity can make a difference for an elder fighting cognitive decline.
To Age Well, Eat Well
As you age, you’ll realize that maintaining your brain’s health is all about engagement. Developing routines and combining them with healthy habits like keeping up with brain foods for seniors can lower the risk of disease and keep your mind clear.
For more information on staying sharp as you age and finding a senior living community that promotes it contact us today.