We all know that what we eat has an impact on our physical health, but we often overlook the fact that our diet also influences our cognitive functions. Research is revealing more and more that a healthy diet can prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia symptoms, while a poor diet can contribute to the development of these conditions.
Diet can affect our brain health in the following ways, either reducing or increasing our future dementia risks.
Blood Supply to the Brain
High blood pressure can interrupt the blood supply to the brain, increasing the risks of impaired cognitive functioning. Eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium reduces the impact of sodium on blood pressure. Decreasing general sodium intake is also helpful in reducing blood pressure.
Insulin and Brain Chemistry
Fatty and sugary foods have been found to interfere with the supply of insulin to the brain and to affect the way that the brain cells respond to insulin. Insulin helps to regulate certain chemicals in the brain that are important in learning new information and forming and recalling memories. In animals, diabetes development contributed to the formation of the beta amyloid plaques that are found in the brains of human Alzheimer’s patients.
Memory Boosting Foods
Certain foods have been shown to boost memory, both in the short term and long term. Leafy greens, berries, chocolate, coffee, peanuts, avocados, and olive oil have all been linked to improved memory and better overall brain function. The Mediterranean diet includes many of these foods and is credited with being a healthy diet plan for both physical and mental health for most people.
Foods to Avoid
Unfortunately, certain foods have been linked to increased risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions affecting cognitive functions. Processed meats, cheeses, and microwave popcorn trigger chemical reactions in the body that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. White foods like white sugar and white bread cause insulin spikes.
Intake of Omega-3 Fats
A high intake of omega-3 fats has shown to directly reduce the risks of developing the amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have shown that increasing the intake of omega-3 fats can even improve memory in the short term. Omega-3 fats can be found in certain types of fish, seaweed, chia seeds, and walnuts.
For more information about how to reduce your dementia risks, speak with your primary care physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, work with your health insurance agency to locate an in-network doctor in your area that can help you maintain your best health.