Fish. Our brains are 70 percent fat so the kinds of fats we eat do have an impact on our brain health. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats, and people who consume high levels of these anti-inflammatory fatty acids have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, protects brain neurons against the toxic events associated with amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which accumulate from Alzheimer’s disease. Fish is not only a great source of omega-3 fat, but it also provides healthy protein. Wild salmon, halibut, light tuna, cod, flounder, sole, sea bass, shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crab are all healthy choices. Keep in mind that wild fish has more omega-3 fat than farmed fish. Smaller fish like salmon or sole are healthier choices because they contain less mercury than larger predatory fish like shark and swordfish. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating antioxidant fruits and vegetables will lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease by protecting the brains from oxidative free radicals that cause wear and tear on the DNA in our cells. Most colorful berries, like strawberries, blackberries and blueberries contain polyphenols that fight these oxidants. Other antioxidant foods containing polyphenols include grapes, pears, plums and cherries, as well as vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, celery, onions and parsley. You can get an antioxidant boost by eating fruits and vegetables in a salad or snack, taking an antioxidant supplement or drinking fruit and vegetable juices.
Whole grains. Whole grains and high-fiber foods are brain-healthy by helping us control weight, lower blood pressure, prevent strokes and reduce the risk for diabetes and heart disease. The body takes longer to digest whole grains and high-fiber foods than processed foods. Examples of whole grains include 100 percent whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal and even popcorn. Eating whole grains helps you feel fuller while eating fewer calories. By choosing whole grains, we avoid processed foods, which remove the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibers that are essential to a healthy and balanced diet. A diet low in processed foods decreases our risk for metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease.
Gary Small, M.D., and Gigi Vorgan are authors of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program, available at DrGarySmall.com.