It goes without saying that our diets and lifestyles have a tremendous affect on our minds and bodies, but the complex ways in which our everyday decisions—from the food we eat to the hours of sleep we receive—interact to inform our overall health can be difficult to determine. We know which foods are best for us: fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole, natural foods that aren't processed.
When it comes to avoiding specific diseases, like Alzheimer's disease—a form of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior—it's important to actively invest in foods that can aid in prevention. After all, Alzheimer's is rapidly on the rise in the U.S. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans are currently living with the disease, a number that is expected to grow to 16 million by 2050. It's also worth noting that Alzheimer's is more prevalent in women, who make up two thirds of Americans with the disease.
Although the causes of Alzheimer's are largely unknown, genetics are thought to play a key role. As a result, prevention is a gray area with no definite answers. That being said, researchers of the disease do agree that exercise and a heart-healthy diet are the most important first steps in preventing Alzheimer's. Keep reading for five foods you can integrate into your diet to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
Filling, subtly sweet, and easy to cook up, sweet potatoes are a pleasant sighting on the list of top brain foods. Sweet potato is rich in antioxidants, a substance that improves memory and helps boost the brain's ability to learn. That gorgeous orange color is no coincidence—it marks the presence of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Other brightly hued produce like blueberries and grapes also contain antioxidants. In other words, if you're looking to boost your brain power, a colorful plate is an excellent start.
B vitamins are essential for healthy brain development, and one of the major power players from this group is B6. One of the foods richest in B6 is chickpea, a legume that's also high in potassium and protein. Additionally, fish like salmon and tuna are a great main course to get your fill of B6. So go ahead—keep feeding that hummus addiction. Chickpeas are a superfood that will keep your wheels turning.
Along with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 also aids in healthy brain function and development. Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, and mollusks—like oysters, mussels, and clams—contain generous quantities of this nutrient. Liver and kidney are other meat sources high in B12. Vegetarians will have to opt for dairy products and eggs to get their fill of B12, while vegans should be on the search for food fortified with B12, like soy and some cereals, to reap this vitamin's many benefits.
Lentils are rich in folate, a vitamin also known as B9. Folate helps not only with brain function but is also associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Just one cup of lentils will give you 90% of your suggested daily intake of B9. Other beans and legumes, like pinto beans and chickpeas, are also filled with folic acid. Of course, you can never go wrong with adding more leafy greens to your diet, and produce like spinach and collard greens contain healthy amounts of folate—although lentils are still king in this category.
We found your perfect at-work snack: pistachios. Filling and delicious, pistachios are one of the foods richest in vitamin E, a vitamin often overlooked for its brain health benefits. In fact, a study in Neurobiology of Aging found a link between patients with Alzheimer's disease and an overall lower level of vitamin E. Nuts and seeds are generally a great source of vitamin E, but foods like spinach and safflower oil are also rich in this nutrient.
Keep reading for the clean-eating grocery list that's nutritionist approved.