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Your Diet: A Critical Part of Dementia Prevention

Sep 11, 2017 by Toni Reinhart

On Wednesday, I attended a presentation for the Loudoun Senior Interest Network by Dr. Ellen Clarke on brain health and what we can do to help prevent dementia, for both ourselves and for senior citizens in our care. One of the top ways to keep your brain healthy, and indeed, the rest of your body, is a good diet. I think we all really know this.

But are you like me when you hear “diet” you think “what do I have to give up now?” I’ve been through the fat-free diet, the carb-free diet, the gluten-free diet. It feels like I’m on a food-free diet. What do I have to give up now? I personally have already given up sodas (well, that one is OK they are really, really bad for you) and meat. I severely restrict fried food and snack foods. So, I’ve decided to look at the diet that is good for my brain and think about what I’m adding instead of giving up. Lucky for me, the Mediterranean diet is the one that is most recommended and I like that diet anyway.

So, here are some easy ways to tailor your diet to the Mediterranean style and get some brain benefit:

  • Add fruit to every meal, especially fresh fruit. If your habit is to have a bagel and coffee in the morning. Add an orange, or some strawberries. Add fresh fruit to a salad with your dinner, or slice up a piece of fruit as a side dish.
  • Try and pack your lunch instead of going out. You don’t have to do it every day, any improvement counts. Have you seen those cute bento lunch boxes they make for kids? When your food is attractive, you are more likely to eat it. I like to pack mine with things like carrots, hummus, fruit, nuts and cheeses. Mix it up so there’s plenty of color.
  • When you are plating up your dinner (you are plating your dinner, aren’t you?), fill at least half the plate with fruits and vegetables. Add your lean protein and grains last.
  • Studies have found that people that eat fish have healthier brains, but if you absolutely don’t like fish and refuse to eat it, try the MIND diet. It’s a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. It still advocates more fruits, vegetables and grains, but there is less emphasis on fish.
  • What if you really don’t like green leafy vegetables? My husband is one of those. He puts fresh spinach in his fruit smoothies and doesn’t even notice the spinach (a green leafy vegetable he does not like).
  • Did you know that beans are a great protein source and are good for your brain? Try adding beans to salads and soups. I like to toss cannellini beans with tuna packed in water and add a vinaigrette dressing. Here’s an easy way to do that: toss the cannellini beans and tuna, add in some minced red onion, chopped fresh tomatoes and some fresh basil leaves. Add your vinaigrette dressing and you’re good to go. I like mine in lettuce cups. Just look around and see what you can add beans to, they’re cheap and easy and good for you.

You don’t have to make huge changes to your diet all at once. Most of these studies have found that even small changes yield benefits. If you look at the tips I’ve given and do just one, you are doing your brain and body a favor.

The other good news in the Mediterranean and MIND diets – you get to eat chocolate and drink wine. How bad can a diet be that advocates wine and chocolate? Go for the dark chocolate and red wine for the best benefit.

These are just general tips – if you have health concerns, you should check with your doctor. We’re not all built the same and the older we get, the more we have to pay attention to our particular dietary requirements.

Our in-home caregivers are here to help you navigate elderly home care, including diet! One of the ways we can help is by preparing meals that will prevent or lessen the effects of dementia. We’re here to help 24/7! Give us a call at (703) 424-9519, or stop by at 459 Herndon Pkwy #5, Herndon, VA 20170.

Comfort Keepers Herndon is a full-service, in-home care provider for the elderly - helping to keep your loved ones at home longer for better quality of life.

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