Changing diet for brain health and longevity: what to add and what to minimize

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As we age, navigating through the maze of dietary trends, fad diets, superfoods, and a plethora of dietary supplements can be challenging, especially when our goal is to minimize health risks such as high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Current research emphasizes that these conditions not only affect our overall health, but also our brain function, contributing to conditions like Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.

Fortunately, evidence suggests a healthy diet that supports the body can also have beneficial effects on the brain.

Oxidative Stress and Aging

Aging often leads to a less efficient metabolism, increasing the accumulation of compounds from oxidative stress, a condition where the body’s normal chemical reactions generate harmful by-products known as free radicals.

These damage other chemicals in the body, leading to a buildup of toxic compounds that can slowly degrade brain health over time, potentially leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

To combat oxidative stress, our body relies on protective mechanisms in the form of antioxidants and specific proteins.

However, these systems become less efficient with age, making it crucial to supplement our antioxidant levels through diet and lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity.

What Foods to Add

Certain foods can positively impact brain health:

  1. Fish: Particularly oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to protect against oxidative stress and are essential for memory, learning, and cognitive processes.
  2. Berries: They are packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and anthocyanins, which have been linked to a reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain.
  3. Red and Purple Sweet Potato: The diet of the long-lived Okinawan people of Japan includes purple sweet potato, which is rich in anthocyanin antioxidants.
  4. Green Vegetables and Herbs: These foods, common in the Mediterranean diet, are rich in antioxidants such as vitamins A and C, folate, polyphenols, and carotenoids.
  5. Beetroot: It is rich in folate, polyphenol antioxidants, copper, and manganese. Beetroot can also boost the body’s nitric oxide levels, which helps in reducing blood pressure.

What Foods to Reduce

It’s equally important to reduce intake of foods that increase oxidative stress and inflammation, like sweets, soft drinks, refined carbohydrates, processed meats, and deep-fried foods.

These have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are risk factors for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

With these dietary tips in mind, we can better our chances of maintaining good brain health, staving off neurodegenerative diseases, and leading a healthier and longer life.

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