Cognitive impairment remains one of the top issues for America’s seniors. Sadly, 10% of the population over the age of 65 suffers from dementia, with another 22% suffering from milder forms of cognitive impairment. If you’re going to maintain your body and brain health deep into old age, you need to take care of yourself. By entering a senior living facility, you can take the necessary steps to get your health right. Part of it is staying active and engaged with your community. The other side of it is putting the right types of foods in your body, which is what we’ll be discussing today. A good diet can give a massive boost to brain health in seniors. Keep reading and we’ll explain the correlation between diet and brain health by going over some of the most important brain foods. Being in an assisted living facility with chef-prepared meals, you’ll finally be able to prioritize your brain health.
In terms of meat, the best thing you can get from poultry and beef is a good amount of protein. It’s not going to do much for your brain or heart health, but eating plenty of fatty fish, like salmon, will. Salmon has a wealth of omega-3 fatty acids, which are so important for brain health (as well as heart health). You can also get omega-3s from other fatty fish, like sardines, tuna, trout, and herring. Most of your brain is made up of fat and half of that is made up of these omega-3s. These fats are crucial for learning, memory, and fending off age-related decline and Alzheimer’s.
Leafy greens aren’t the most exciting brain food, but they’re so important for your brain health. Kale, spinach, arugula, and a number of other leafy greens are high in vitamin B, which boosts energy. B-9, also known as folate, is particularly good for preventing cognitive decline and staving off Alzheimer’s. Being high in antioxidants, leafy greens also help to fight off free radicals, which are detrimental to an aging brain.
It’s no surprise to find berries on this list of brain foods. Dark berries – blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, boysenberries – like our leafy greens, are full of antioxidants. Oxidative stress and inflammation are shown to speed up brain aging. These antioxidants act against both these things while helping communication between brain cells. Berries are a great source of natural sugar, so you can enjoy healthy breakfasts and desserts without turning to artificial sugars. Studies show that sugar substitutes are linked to memory decline.
A lot of seniors give up coffee because of what they perceive as negative effects on heart health. In moderation, coffee is totally fine for your physical health and actually very beneficial for your brain. The two main components of coffee are caffeine and antioxidants. As we know, antioxidants are extremely good for aging brains, but there are a number of positive effects to drinking caffeine. Firstly, caffeine increases your alertness, so you’ll have more energy throughout the day. It’s also a mood booster, which is essential for adults in assisted living who might be at higher risk of depression and anxiety. Lastly, caffeine is great for concentration. If you’re finding yourself unable to focus on tasks as you get older, drinking a few cups of coffee throughout the day will help. It’ll also lower your risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
If coffee isn’t your thing, you can always go for a turmeric latte. Turmeric contains something called curcumin, which has demonstrated that it can enter the brain and interact with your cells directly. Again, it’s rich in antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help boost memory. Turmeric also eases symptoms of depression and helps new brain cells grow. Talk to your doctor about taking curcumin supplements, as this may help you experience these benefits more acutely.
Whether you’re old or young, your diet should consist of mostly vegetables with a small amount of meat – preferably fish. One of the best vegetables for brain health (other than leafy greens) is broccoli, which contains antioxidants and vitamin K. Vitamin K helps your brain form “sphingolipids,” which is a fat found in brain cells. Those with higher vitamin K counts seem to have better memory and overall cognitive health. Broccoli is a great vegetable because it’s delicious when cooked, but just as good raw alongside a healthy dip like hummus or baba ghanoush.
Believe it or not, chocolate is brain food. Dark chocolate, in particular, is very rich in caffeine, antioxidants, and flavinoids. Flavinoids enter a particular part of your brain that helps with memory and counteracting mental decline. Chocolate and other cocoa products are also noted as mood boosters. It remains to be seen whether this is due to the nutrients in dark chocolate or because it’s delicious.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are yet another food that boosts both brain and heart health. Some studies have shown that those who eat nuts regularly have sharper memories and are at a lower risk of mental decline. Most nuts contain a variety of healthy fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants. If you’ve got a nut allergy, you can get some of the same benefits from eating seeds. Specifically, pumpkin seeds contain a wealth of other nutrients, like zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron. A lack of zinc is linked to various neurological conditions, while low magnesium is linked to depression and epilepsy. Low iron and copper put you at risk of brain fog and overall neurological decline, respectively.
Getting the Food You Need in Senior Living
Maintaining a balanced diet and prioritizing all of the foods we’ve discussed here will keep your brain in great shape. One of the perks of a senior living community is having chef-prepared meals. Inspired Living gives you exceptional all-day dining. Our chefs have a deep knowledge of what makes a healthy diet for seniors while ensuring that your meals are delicious and varied. To learn more about our living options, dining, and the community, contact us today to schedule a tour.