One of the leading health concerns many of us have is "What will happen to my mind as I age?" Despite this pressing question plaguing our minds (no pun intended), there seems to be one big glaring misconception surrounding the truth about Alzheimer's.
According to a survey conducted by Harvard University School of Public Health and the Alzheimer Europe consortium, more than 45% of respondents believe there is an effective treatment or cure for Alzheimer's - when in reality, cold hard facts show that the opposite is true. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer's. However, what researchers are finding is that the majority of Alzheimer's cases are linked to obesity. This leaves us with the choice to either protect against Alzheimer's and delay its arrival by being selective with what we put in our bodies, or to throw caution to the wind and dare Alzheimer's to knock on our door.
In a recent issue of Psychology Today, Gary Wenk (professor of psychology, neuroscience, molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics at Ohio State University and author of Your Brain on Food) insists that preventing dementia starts with what we eat. Why? Because everything we consume is made up of chemicals that cause a reaction in our brain. In other words, being mindful of the food we eat can preserve our mind as we age.
Unfortunately, the vital molecule we need to survive is also the molecule that causes us to age: oxygen. By choosing foods abundant with antioxidants, we can protect ourselves from oxidative stress. The other unfortunate issue is our culture of eating three big simple carbohydrate-heavy meals a day; this pattern essentially destabilizes our insulin system over time. Wenk says we should focus on one big meal a day - breakfast - with smaller bits to follow throughout the day.
What Your Brain Wants...
The brain is low on glucose after hours of sleeping. Providing it with a breakfast full of nutrients, which will be digested slowly, will not only supply us with more energy - it will also offer less wear and tear on the body. A breakfast with a complex carbohydrate such as oatmeal, a whole grain bagel, grapefruit, or low-fat yogurt, a splash of antioxidants from orange juice, blueberries or strawberries, and protein in the form of eggs or turkey sausage is sure to do the trick.
With the neurotransmitter acetylcholine rendered nonfunctional by morning, our brain is craving caffeine to free up acetylcholine neurons - making us more functional and able to pay attention. Drinking some coffee or tea, while reaping the benefit of their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds called flavonoids, is a good thing in the morning. Try nibbling on fruit or nuts every hour or half-hour as needed; their fiber and fat content are metabolized slowly, meaning chemicals aren't running up to the brain too quickly.
Focus on low-fat and colorful foods like chicken salad or fish with steamed veggies. The remainder of the afternoon should contain more nibbles on fruit or nuts.
Think small. The only reason to eat dinner is to provide the brain with enough nutrients to get us through the night without waking up. Wenk suggests loading up on compounds not yet consumed; this can include foods high in omega-3 fats like salmon, walnuts, and kiwi, as these foods help neurons maintain their structural integrity.
According to Wenk, the earlier we start this brain-saving lifestyle, the better off we'll be at preserving a healthy mind.
Information taken from Psychology Today article "How to Save Your Brain"
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