Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can be some of the most devastating diagnoses to receive for you and your loved ones. And although these things can’t be completely reversed, there are many ways to help slow them down, including how much movement you get, how much you drink and smoke, and your daily diet.
“Anti-inflammatory eating styles have shown the most promise for combatting dementia,” says Morgyn Clair, MS, RDN, author at Fit Healthy Momma. The most commonly studied diets for this are the Mediterranean, MIND, and DASH diets.”
While anti-inflammatory diets have been known to help fight dementia and other cognitive-related decline, there are many inflammatory foods and ways of eating that can cause lasting damage.
One of the best things you can do to help protect your brain health is to limit the amount of saturated and trans fats you’re consuming on a daily basis.
“Fried foods, pastries, and baked goods are often full of both saturated and trans fats, and research suggests that consistent intake of these types of foods can contribute to an increase in disease risk, including the risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our expert medical board.
Goodson also mentions that a helpful eating guideline to follow is making sure your diet is full of “colorful foods.”
“Foods rich in colors like fruits and vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants! These foods help keep the immune system strong,” says Goodson. “In fact, the MIND Diet, (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) says to fill your diet with all vegetables, specifically the green leafy ones and berries to help prevent dementia and loss of brain function as you age.”
Speaking of the MIND diet, one of the pillars of this way of eating is limiting your consumption of excess and added sugar.
“It is a relatively flexible diet, stating some foods are necessary only on a weekly basis, making it somewhat easy to follow,” says Clair. “It’s not a strict diet but more of a suggestion of habits that have proven to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.”
In fact, recent research has shown that those with higher blood sugar levels may have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Lowering your intake of added sugar and going for natural sugars like fruit can help your brain health over time.
While moderate amounts of alcohol have been found to have very little effect on your overall cognitive health, heavy consumption of alcohol can negatively impact your brain. One study published in Nutrients found that heavy wine consumption had “neurotoxic” effects and therefore increased the risk of dementia.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, heavy alcohol consumption over time can decrease your brain’s white matter, as well as the important vitamins your brain needs for memory retention.