Did you know that the brain uses more energy than any other organ in our bodies? It’s true! In fact, about 25% of the food we eat actually goes directly to supporting our brain’s function. That is no surprise when we remember that our brains control many different body systems, including our hormones, digestion, circulation, and even our immunity.
Poor food choices are detrimental to our brains’ health, whereas nutritious foods give us healthy fats, minerals, vitamins, protein, and other nutrients that optimize brain health.
Think about it like this—what happens if you consistently put poor-quality gas in your car? It might run okay for a while, but in time, it gums up the engine and causes major mechanical problems. Our brains are like that when we eat unhealthy foods. By eating healthy foods, we support our brain for the long run.
Try these 5 tips to support brain health:
1) CHOOSE NUTRIENT-RICH FOODS
Promising research shows that eating more nutritious foods can have a significant impact on slowing down cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s.
The research points to the importance of foods like:
- Fruits and vegetables- especially berries and dark leafy greens
- Beans and Legumes
- Whole grains
Foods to avoid (or eat in moderation) include:
- Butter and margarine
- Red Meat
- Sweets and Pastries
- Fried and Fast Food
2) SWAP IT OUT
We all have probably tried (and sometimes failed) to eat healthier. One strategy that works is swapping out less-healthy options for more nutritious choices.
Instead of… Choose…
|Butter or margarine||Olive oil|
|Candy||A trail mix that includes nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chips|
|Iceberg lettuce||Fresh spinach|
|Chips and dip||Hummus and carrot sticks
These are only a few examples, but consider the foods that you could easily swap out in your diet.
3) GO SLOW
How many times have you started a “diet” only to abandon it in 4-6 weeks? Eating for brain health is a LIFELONG change…not a short-term fix.
Aim for progress you can sustain in time. That means going slow and making incremental changes.
Start with what’s easy, and as you gain momentum, incorporate additional changes.
In time, strive to incorporate more salmon, eggs, berries, leafy greens, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables into your diet as well.
All of them uniquely impact brain function, including memory and concentration.
4) REMEMBER—PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
It has taken you a lifetime to develop your current eating habits. You aren’t going to develop new habits overnight. It takes time.
Be patient and strive for progress rather than perfection. Don’t beat yourself up for enjoying a cupcake at your granddaughter’s birthday party. Focus on moderation…and keep choosing healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
5) GET SUPPORT
Preparing healthy foods can be time-consuming. Give yourself permission to seek outside support. Consider enlisting the help of a family member for a couple of hours a week as you prepare ingredients.
Buy pre-chopped vegetables or prewashed salad. Or, consider a mail-order meal delivery service such as HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, or the countless other options out there. Choosing time-saving options will help you stick to a more nutritious diet.
Likewise, for many older adults, preparing nutritious meals at home is simply too much. If that is the case, remember, Assisted Living facilities provide healthy meals that make it easier to support brain health.
Whatever options you choose, go slow, make incremental progress, and keep focused on the goal—better nutrition in order to support brain health. You’ve got this!
At Chatham Place at Mary Wade, we know just how important nutrition is for our Memory Care Residents. Whether residents are catching up with a friend over lunch in our cafe, enjoying a healthy meal with a family member in our cafeteria, or preparing simple foods in the comfort of their own apartment, nutrition is emphasized and encouraged. Seniors enjoy independence while also receiving just the right amount of support to ensure they eat nutritious foods that support brain health. Contact us to learn more.