Can a blueberry a day keep dementia away? Probably not. How about a handful? Maybe. As people are living longer, fears of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia illnesses are mounting, leading to researchers’ quests for foods that might stave off degenerative brain conditions. Blueberries seem to be at the top of the proliferating lists of dementia-fighting foods.
Of course there are many factors involved in the onset of all illness, including those like genetics which we cannot control. We can take some control, however, with what we eat, along with getting enough sleep, physical exercise, and mental exercise (puzzles, learning new things).
So, barring any allergies, eat those blueberries, along with other berries and fruits. And indulge in vegetables of all colors. Broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, beans, and the latest power veggie – kale – are at the top of the healthy eating lists. Fish with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines are called “brain food”; fish is also a healthy source of protein. Olive and canola oils are recommended, as are whole grains and nuts.
Coffee and chocolate (the dark variety), which were formerly thought of as health villains, are now believed to be good for the brain as well as having various other health benefits. Likewise eggs, once thought to be a source of unwanted cholesterol, are now considered healthy; they are a source of protein and lecithin, which is important for all the cells in the body.
Fats have also been given a bad rap, whereas it is now believed that all three types of fats – saturated, poly- and mono-unsaturated – are vital for proper cell function, with the mono-fats being very beneficial (read the food labels to see which of these fats are included). Too much saturated fat is still not recommended, but it should not be completely eliminated. The powerful Dr. Oz does not advocate fat-free milk, saying that it contains more sugar to replace the fat. Only trans-fats (listed as partially-hydrogenated anything on food labels) are to be completely avoided.
As for sugar, again consume it in moderation only. Researchers are now starting to make connections between Alzheimer’s disease and blood sugar metabolism in the brain. REAL sugar is to be preferred over all the synthetic sugar substitutes. Diet sodas are among the worst things to put into one’s body. My brain would get foggy from diet sodas; and I suspect that my husband’s former habit of a diet Coke for lunch every day exacerbated the development of his dementia illness.
Eating a variety of healthy foods can never hurt, even if it does not prevent brain illness. It’s okay to have treats in moderation – and even healthy foods should be eaten in a reasonable way. There was a woman in the news who ate salmon every day, thinking it would make her really healthy – but she ended up getting mercury poisoning instead.
Some vitamins and supplements are said to improve brain health also; but it is best to consult a dietician or nutritionist (medical doctors usually do not address supplements at all). And a good rule to follow is to eat the simplest, most natural forms of foods – the fewer ingredients a product has, the better; and if the list of ingredients has words you can’t pronounce, they are best avoided.
Obsessing over how to keep your brain healthy is probably not a good idea; so live and eat reasonably and moderately – and go enjoy some dark chocolate-covered blueberries – my favorite snack!