We know that what we eat can affect our heart health; and now the same can be said for our brains.
Since 2015, there is growing evidence that a specific set of diet behaviors - now named as The MIND Diet - may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53%. And the level of brain function improvement among seniors is equivalent to being 7 ½ years younger!
MIND stands for Mediterrane-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. As indicated from its name, this diet is a combination of two well-established diets: The Mediterrean and the DASH diets. The former is well-known in preventing heart diseases, and the latter is successful at treating high blood pressure. The diet encompasses numerous beneficial elements; let us pick 5 diet changes that you can help your parents maintain their brain health.
Change #1: Switch your cooking oil to olive oil
Olives are one of the key elements in the Mediterranean diet; and olive oil has been found in numerous studies to be heart-protective. The MIND diet researchers found that people who mainly use olive oil to cook at home had the most protection against brain decline. Choose extra-virgin olive oil for boiling or steaming, and light olive oil for sauteing or other high heat cooking purposes.
Change #2: Eat green leafy vegetables at least 6 times a week
Neither the Mediterranean nor the DASH diet specified eating green leafy vegetables. But the MIND diet researchers found that at least 2 servings a week of green leafy vegetables can help protect brain health. And 6 or more servings a week provide the greatest overall health benefits. Green leafy vegetables include spinach, chinese cabbage, Shanghai bok choy, kale, broccoli and other green-coloured vegetables.
Change #3: Eat nuts at least 5 times a week
Nuts have long been associated with cholesterol-lowering properties, and now the MIND diet researchers have found that these tasty crunchy snacks are good for brain health too. Not only do nuts provide plant-based healthy fats and protein, they also provide fiber as well as antioxidants. Remember to snack on a variety of nuts and not just one kind. For people who may not be able to chew hard foods, cashews, peanuts and macadamia nuts may be more appropriate.
Change #4: Eat at least 3 servings of whole grains a day
Three servings of whole grains; that means all 3 main meals will include whole grains. For people who are used to eating white rice only, this change will probably take some time to fully adopt. Whole grains simply provide a lot more beneficial nutrients. The reason whole grains are called “whole”, is due to the fact that the grains retain all 3 components, providing an extra source of fibre, B-vitamins, Vitamin E, magnesium, iron and other antioxidants. Make changes one step at a time; start with one meal a day and slowly work your way up. Whole grain options for breakfast include oatmeal, granola, whole wheat bread, and brown rice vermicelli, whereas for lunch and dinner, choose brown rice, black/purple rice, whole wheat pasta, buckwheat noodles, etc.
Change #5: Eat beans at least 3 times a week
If you (or your parents) don’t eat beans regularly, it’s time to find ways to include them in your diet. Not only are beans easier to chew and can replace meat in a meal as the protein source, it provides an important vitamin. I’m referring to the B-vitamins! B-vitamins play an important role in our brains and nervous system. They help transmit neural signals from one nerve cell to another. However, B-vitamins are also water soluble, meaning that our body cannot easily store them. Thus, we need to replenish them every day. For those who feel that beans are gassy, soak them overnight unstirred; drain and rinse well with running water. Then use a slow cooking method to cook beans, again unstirred and let it sit for a few hours. Drain and rinse well with running water. If using canned beans, these are already cooked. Simply rinse them well under water to get rid of the gassy components.
Gloria Tsang - Registered Dietitian