Mediterranean diet improves brain health - Your West Valley News: Columns

Mediterranean diet improves brain health

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E. Kresent Thuringer

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 6:55 am

This may be a touchy subject for some folks but the sad fact is that approximately 50 percent of older individuals perceive themselves as being forgetful.

Forgetfulness does not necessarily mean dementia. The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former is not disabling.

Mere memory lapses have little impact on daily performance and the ability to function.

The brain can produce new cells at all age levels. Forgetting things — like where the reading glasses ended up — are not an inevitable result of reaching a certain age. However, like muscle strength, the brain requires usage. Healthy habits and lifestyle are crucial, too.

So-called “senior moments” can indeed have physiological causes. Among these is a decreased blood flow to the brain, which can impair memory and lead to changes in cognitive skills. Another reason may be that older people are less efficient at absorbing brain-enhancing nutrients. Enter diet: it definitely plays a role in brain health.

The best menu for kick-starting memory will provide sufficient blood flow to the brain. Akin to a heart healthy diet, a recent study found that the Mediterranean diet could assist in keeping older brains tuned up.

Foods in the Mediterranean diet have been associated with better cognitive function, memory and alertness.

Here are some edibles that may be helpful:

• Consuming enough vegetables, especially cruciferous ones like cabbage and dark leafy greens, may help improve memory. Kale — a formerly dismissive and defiled veggie — and collard greens are good options.

The omniscient broccoli is an inexpensive choice for inclusion on the dinner plate.

• Dark blackberries, blueberries and cherries are a rich source of flavonoids that may boost memory function. Fresh, frozen or dried choices will do.

• Adequate omega-3 fatty acids are essential for good brain health. DHA in particular may also improve memory in healthy young adults. DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain.

• Seafood and fatty fish such as salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Substituting fish for meat a couple of times a week will provide enough.

• Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are reported to have beneficial effects on brain function.

A cautionary note: as with most nuts, walnuts have a high caloric content. But for those who fancy kale salad, for instance, the addition of a few will give an omega-3 boost.

These nutrient-rich foods are not meant to be the Holy Grail for remembering why you went from one room to another for whatever you were going to get. The list should serve as a reminder that sharp gray matter and good health require “high octane” food choices.

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