Saturday, June 19, 2010

Feeding Your Brain

Reliable studies from various sources are now suggesting a number of dietary approaches we can take to maintain and even improve our mental capacities as we age. One food repeatedly appearing is vegetables. Studies have demonstrated that people who eat three servings of vegetables a day have brain functioning comparable to someone five years younger. This was especially true when the subjects ate green, leafy vegetables such as romaine lettuce and spinach and cruciferous vegetables like arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Interestingly, fruits did not correlate to an improvement in brain functioning, despite their overall high nutritional content. So while many nutrition guidelines group fruits and vegetables together, as if they were interchangeable nutritionally, keep these studies in mind and be sure to eat at least three servings of vegetables daily. What’s a serving? It’s ½ cup of any fruit or vegetable, except for leafy vegetables, where a serving size is one cup.

While experts believe that 50% of Alzheimer’s cases are hereditary, lifestyle may play a role in the other 50% of cases.* The vitamin E in foods such as leafy vegetables, not necessarily supplements, is expected to be the reason for the delayed decline in mental functioning.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in just one serving fish per week have been shown to cut cognitive decline by 12%. On the other hand, high consumption of saturated fats, such as those found in animal products, or trans fats, found in processed foods such as pastries and crackers, has been shown to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, studies are taking place on the effects of caffeine and green and black tea and the prevention of Alzheimer’s. It is suspected that the stimulant effect of caffeine, which increases brain activity, may be blocking the production of a protein that causes Alzheimer’s.
* Source: Environmental Nutrition September 2007

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