When it comes to warding off diseases, there’s really nothing that can set you up for success quite like making adjustments to your diet. And when it comes to reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s, disease, tweaking your diet had been found to reduce risk by up to 53%. But that doesn’t mean you have to completely overhaul how you eat — slight adjustment is really all it takes. With help from Mayo Clinic and a few other resources, we take a look at 15 small changes you can make to your diet that could reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s. (You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the tip on page 15.)
1. Eat at least three servings of whole grains a day
Mayo Clinic tells us that the MIND diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH
Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, takes inspiration from both the Mediterranean and DASH diets and applies components that have been found to prevent dementia. This includes eating lots of whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and pasta, and even popcorn.
2. Fuel up with dark leafy greens at least six times a week
You may not like the idea of hoovering rabbit food all week long, but you’ll likely change your tune after finding out dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale have been found to sharpen your memory. Since these greens can be mixed into many different dishes, you won’t feel stuck eating the same salads all week.
3. Add a veggie at least once a day
“Getting adequate vegetables, especially cruciferous ones including broccoli, cabbage, and dark leafy greens, may help improve memory,” EatRight.org tells us. If snacking on celery sticks isn’t to your liking, consider a broccoli stir-fry or adding carrots into homemade soup. Even adding just one extra veggie a day can help keep you sharp.
4. Cut back on red meat
Here’s the deal, carnivores: If you want help in warding off Alzheimer’s disease, you should be eating red meat less than four times a week. While the link between saturated and trans fats and memory isn’t entirely clear, there is a definite correlation, so keeping your fatty beef intake to a minimum is good. (Plus, eating less red meat is better for your heart too.)
5. Swap in a couple servings of chicken
Just because you’re cutting out red meat doesn’t mean you have to cut out getting your protein in. Instead, substitute chicken into your main dishes a few times a week. BBC Good Food tells us that foods rich in certain B-vitamins, like chicken and eggs, are good for reducing compounds in the blood that can lead to cognitive impairment and even stroke.
6. Fuel up with fish at least once a week
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your brain power, and as EatRight.org tells us, “seafood, algae and fatty fish — including salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines, and herring — are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.” Since fish can be prepared all sorts of different ways, they make a great substitute for the red meat in your diet.
7. Get in a serving of berries at least twice a week
“Berries — especially dark ones such as blackberries, blueberries, and cherries — are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that may boost memory function,” EatRight.org praises. Since berries are seasonal foods, we suggest stocking up during peak months and then freezing them so you can enjoy this memory-boosting food year-round.
8. Try adding beans at least three times a week
Legumes are good for your brain, and adding beans to your diet is a good call. Black beans in particular “contain higher levels of folate and magnesium that help reverse the detrimental effects of Alzheimer’s disease,” AlternaScript.com says. They’re also good for blood flow through the whole body, which is a good boost for your brain.
9. Make nuts your favorite snack
Nuts, in general, are good, but walnuts are the ones that pack the real punch. “Just munching on a few walnuts a day can improve your cognitive health,” Dr. Axe says. “Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals also improve mental alertness.” If you’re someone who enjoys snacking, having walnuts on hand is perfect for you.
10. Make olive oil your new best friend
Throw the vegetable oil to the side and give this Mediterranean wonder the attention it deserves — for your brain’s sake, anyways. “Thanks to the powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that are found in the oil, including EVOO in your diet may not only improve learning and memory, but also reverse the age- and disease-related changes,” Dr. Axe says. If you don’t cook a ton, use olive oil as a topping on salads and other vegetable dishes instead.
11. Go easy on the butter
As we previously mentioned, a high diet of bad saturated fats can up your Alzheimer’s risk. So while butter may be a delicious addition to your meals, cutting back on it is better for your memory. “You don’t need to shun saturated fat sources entirely, but choose low- or non-fat versions of animal products, such as cheese, yogurt, and milk,” Reader’s Digest suggests.
12. Only have fried foods once a week
Fried food, fast food, you name. If it’s heavily processed, it’s bad for both your diet as well as your brain. Healthline points to a study in which “in 243 people found increased fat around the organs, or visceral fat, is associated with brain tissue damage.” So while the occasional trip to get fast food french fries won’t completely wreck your brain, you shouldn’t make it part of our regular diet.
13. Cut sweets down to once a week
You don’t have to completely cut dessert out of your diet. You should just consider limiting your intake of cakes and pastries if you want to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. “A high intake of refined carbs with a high glycemic index and glycemic load may impair memory and intelligence, as well as increase the risk of dementia,” Healthline warns.
14. Hold the cheese
We’ve already talked about saturated fat — like that found in our favorite cheeses — causing inflammation in the brain which can contribute to memory loss. Huffington Post adds that saturated fat also hinders your hypothalamus’ ability to regulate how much you eat and leaves you at a higher risk for obesity.
15. Cut alcohol back to a glass of wine a day
You already know that binge drinking impairs your judgment and makes you forget things. So why would constant drinking be any different for your memory? But fear not — you don’t have to give up alcohol altogether if you want to lower your Alzheimer’s risk. Having just a little red wine each day can actually help boost your memory thanks to its high antioxidant level. Just “remember” to limit yourself to one glass.
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