Avoid Alzheimer’s Through Diet

by Kari Hartel, RD, LD
Program Coordinator, Cooking Matters, Operation Food Search

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and research continues to prove that diet and exercise can play a huge role in preventing this unfortunate disease, which affects more than five million Americans. Alzheimer’s disease is now so prevalent that it is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. While there are many factors that influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk.

Here are the steps you can take to cut your risk:

  • Keep your intake of saturated fat and trans fat to a minimum. Sources of saturated fat include meats, dairy products, baked goods and tropical oils (coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil). Sources of trans fat include fried foods and baked goods, including pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, cookies, crackers, stick margarines and shortenings.
  • Base your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
  • Go nuts! Be sure to include a daily dose of disease-fighting nuts or seeds, which are rich in vitamin E and flavonoids. Aim for one ounce each day—about one small handful.
  • Favor fatty fish for brain fitness. Fatty fish provide you with noggin-nourishing omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, trout, albacore tuna, sardines and herring, may help lower your blood levels of beta-amyloid—a protein that could play a part in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Add berries, which boast a bounty of polyphenols—a kind of antioxidant that can reduce chronic inflammation—to reduce inflammation, slashing your risk for disease.
  • Popeye was right when he advised you to each your spinach. Leafy green veggies such as spinach, kale, and collards are loaded with fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants. They’re so mighty that studies have shown they can improve memory and other cognitive functioning.
  • Score brain-boosting points by adding spices to your dishes, particularly turmeric. Turmeric, which is used to flavor curries, contains a powerful compound called curcumin that has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. A study out of UCLA revealed that when curcumin is paired with vitamin D3 it may help the immune system eliminate plaque in the brain that is correlated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Keep your morning coffee habit. Research has found that people who had higher blood levels of caffeine (from two to three cups of coffee per day) developed Alzheimer’s disease two to four years later than people whose blood levels of caffeine were lower.
  • Indulge your sweet tooth with dark chocolate, which is chock-full of flavonoids that increase circulation and delay the progression of dementia.
  • Don’t forget about physical activity. Make sure you get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily.

Want a head start on your holiday shopping? Join Operation Food Search for its 15th Annual Empty Bowls event November 22 – 23 at Plaza Frontenac. Our “Empty Bowls,” hand-crafted by local artists, will make the perfect gift! Empty Bowls will be available for sale during regular mall hours, 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and are reminders that so many people in our community don’t have enough to eat.

For more information, contact Steve.Baer@OperationFoodSearch.org, or (314) 726-5355 X 19.