If you’ve had a loved one develop Alzheimer’s disease, you know just how emotionally devastating it can be for the patient and the people around them. If this loved one was your mother or father, then it’s likely you’ve questioned whether or not this disease runs in your family.
Having a parent with Alzheimer’s doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get it too because it has more to do with specific genetic mutations that are passed down. But it’s perfectly normal for people who have had parents develop Alzheimer’s to want to do everything they can to lower their own chances of getting the disease.
One of the most common ways to care for your brain as you get older is through the food you eat. We talked with Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, and member of our medical expert board, about the type of diet you may want to focus on if Alzheimer’s runs in your family.
While this well-balanced diet is crucial, Young says that leafy greens (spinach, kale, microgreens, romaine lettuce, etc.) are specifically important for your brain health. She even calls them brain candy.
“These greens are rich in antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and folate, which promotes brain health,” says Young.
As Young mentioned, leafy greens come packed full of important vitamins, one of which is folate. Folate is a natural B vitamin that our bodies need for healthy cell function, as well as forming red blood cells and DNA.
One review from Proceedings of the Nutrition Society states that folate and B vitamins are essential for brain health in every age group, from infants to the elderly. Vitamin B is specifically helpful for improving your brain health in the aging process.
“Folate may positively influence cognitive function,” says Young. “It is important for proper functioning of the overall nervous system, so a lack of this vitamin may contribute to an aging brain.”
One study in Neurology of 960 adults (with no existing signs of dementia) also found that those who consumed at least one serving of leafy greens every day had fewer issues with cognitive decline and memory loss than those who didn’t eat many leafy greens.
It’s safe to say that eating leafy greens can have a positive impact on your brain health, especially if you think it’s possible that Alzheimer’s runs in your family. However, we understand that eating leafy greens is easier said than done because they can get quite boring. If you need some inspiration, try one of these kale-centered dishes, or a creative salad recipe.
For more healthy aging tips, check out The 5 Best Foods for Memory Loss.