Do you know that nearly 60 percent of the human brain is made up of fat? In fact, the brain requires a quarter of the nutrients in your blood system to function normally. With that being said, it’s obvious that eating a nutritious diet loaded with healthy fats and other brain foods may help with Alzheimer’s prevention. But what are these super brain foods and how can we be sure to get enough of them in our every day diet?
Research on Brain Foods
A recent study at the University of Columbia in New York found that people eating primarily a plant based diet with healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seafood, and healthy fats such as olive oil, were found to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. This type of diet is also been called the “Mediterranean Diet,” a popular heart healthy regime that is very popular and has had many studies proving its efficacy for heart disease, diabetes, and yes even Alzheimer’s disease. “A brain-healthy diet is one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain and is low in fat and cholesterol,” says Nancy Udelson, the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Cleveland Area Chapter.
Fish and Omega 3 Fatty Acids
With the brain utilizing so much fat for normal functioning, it just makes sense that a diet rich in healthy unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats would help to nourish the brain and be considered “brain super foods.”
When it comes to brain health, we need fats from healthy omega 3 fatty acids which are prevalent in wild cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna fish. These fats are necessary for the brain to build healthy nervous tissue. Omega 3 fatty acids also help with nerve transmission. You can find this type of brain super food in walnuts, flaxseeds, beans, and winter squash. Many people take fish oil supplements when they find it difficult to get enough of this power food in their daily diet. And as an added bonus, many experts recommend Omega 3 fatty acids for weight loss as well as Alzheimer’s prevention
Avocados have a specific type of fat called oleic acid which helps to build brain tissue called “myelin.” Myelin actually makes up a protective coating of the brain. This myelin is pretty amazing in that it helps our nerve transmissions speed up to 200 mph. The cells in the nervous system that do not have myelin work much slower in processing information. Over 1/3rd of the fat in myelin is comprised of oleic acid, so eating avocados every day (other sources are olives, almonds, and pecans) is a tasty way to get plenty of oleic acid to promote brain health.
This brain healthy food source is rich in B-vitamins and riboflavin which provides energy to brain cells. Be sure to soak it overnight (just like you do beans and legumes) to ensure that it is not too hard after cooking.
For a feel good brain food, consider eating lentils. These legumes provide a high level of iron which helps to form myelin – the protective coating of the brain. Iron also helps to deliver oxygen to tissues in the body, including brain tissue, and helps improve mood because it’s responsible for assisting in the formation of dopamine (a neurotransmitter in the brain that has to do with mood).
Flax seeds have long been known to be a super brain food due to its omega 6 fatty acids called GLA, used for building healthy nerve cells in the brain. Flax seeds don’t really have much taste. Try sprinkling them on your cereal or putting them in smoothies, salads, or on yogurt to increase your daily intake.
Sesame Butter (also called Tahini)
Raw sesame butter is a brain super food because it contains a high level of zinc-important in memory and brain development. Zinc also promotes the brain’s defense system and helps promote enzymes that keep trace minerals at a proper level in the brain.
Now that you know which super foods are healthy for Alzheimer’s nutrition, you can start making the shift toward eating a diet that may even lead to prevention of Alzheimer’s disease every day. While it’s okay to eat as many fresh green super foods as you want, over eating even the healthy omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can lead to excessive weight gain which could counteract the health benefits of many of these super foods.