It’s no secret that what you eat plays a key role in your overall health. Healthy foods lead to a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, contributing to a balanced, more active lifestyle. Recent research has taken that concept even further, however. Now, we’re starting to learn that what you eat can affect more than just your cardiovascular system and pancreatic functions – it can affect your brain’s basic structure.
Each day, your brain takes up a significant amount of your caloric needs, burning fuel to keep you alert, active and productive. Like a luxury car, it needs premium fuel and whole foods that are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. According to Harvard Health, a healthy diet, free from the excess sugar intake of most western diets, can lead to a lower risk of depression. Studies have even demonstrated that these diets can lead to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
It was those studies that served to build the foundation of diets specifically designed to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia while boosting overall health.
Increased inflammation within the body can lead to a multitude of health problems. It has been identified as a driver of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, diabetes and more. Foods that are specifically known to drive inflammation include refined or processed foods like white bread and fried foods, as well as other sugary foods full of refined sugar.
Unfortunately, the modern diet is full of these foods. But it hasn’t always been that way. In areas that practice a more traditional diet, overall health is much better and there is a lesser chance of contracting some of the harmful health conditions caused by sugary, refined foods. Most notably, the risk of heart disease and stroke are much lower. One such diet is the Mediterranean Diet. It focuses on foods that have less refined ingredients, eschewing them for traditional staples like unprocessed grains and seafood.
Those who are trying to follow a Mediterranean Diet are encouraged to consume the following foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, herbs, species, extra virgin olive oil, fish and seafood.
The following foods should be consumed in moderation: poultry, cheese, refined yogurt, eggs and other dairy products.
Red meat, sugary beverages, refined oils and grains and processed meats (such as lunch meats) should be avoided or consumed rarely.
If you want to follow these guidelines, your meals should be based around veggies, whole grains and beans, and you should eat fish at least two times each week. Olive oil should be used in place of butter, and you should skip the ice cream and eat fresh fruit instead.
It’s important to note that the Mediterranean Diet was originally conceived to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, but it has been adapted over the years to serve all sorts of specific roles. One such adaptation is the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet.
Utilizing scientific studies that have identified foods that contribute to brain health, this diet is perfect for those looking to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is very specific, with set guidelines that focus on some of the best foods for brain health, including antioxidants and fish. Here are its recommendations:
- More than six weekly servings of green, leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and salad greens
- Daily servings of non-starchy vegetables
- More than two weekly servings of berries, which contain antioxidants
- Five or more weekly servings of nuts
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- More than three daily servings of whole grains like oatmeal, quinoa, whole wheats and brown rice
- At least one serving of fish per week, specifically fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, as they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
- At least four services of beans per week
- At least two servings of poultry like turkey or chicken per week, though fried poultry is not recommended
- No more than one glass of wine daily
The following five foods should be avoided:
- Butter and margarine, which should be limited to less than one tablespoon each day
- Cheese, which should be consumed less than once each week
- Red meat such as pork, lamb and beef products, which should be consumed less than three servings each week
- Fried food, which should be eaten no more than once per week
- Sweets, which are full of refined sugars and should not be eaten more than four times each week
At Sagora Senior Living, we know the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet. We follow the latest dietary science, and that’s why our culinary teams are dedicated to making delicious foods based upon those proven concepts. Here are two of our favorite recipes.
Tuscan White Bean Soup
2 tablespoons oil
1 large red onion (188g) finely diced
4 ribs of celery finely diced
1 large carrot or two medium-sized carrots 226g, diced
5 cloves garlic (12g) minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon dried basil)
30 ounces of cooked white kidney beans
4 cups vegetable broth
½ cup water
1 cup kale shredded
juice of 1 lime
In a large, deep pot over medium heat, add the oil so that it heats up.
Add the onions, celery and carrots, salt and pepper. Stir together and allow to sauté for about 8 minutes, until the onions are translucent and the carrots are softened.
Add in the garlic and stir to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes until the garlic is fragrant and the veggies begin to look caramelized.
Add in the Italian seasoning, and kidney beans and stir to combine.
Pour in the vegetable broth and stir again.
Bring to a boil, and then to a simmer for about 20 minutes.
Remove 2 cups of the soup (with veggies in it – just scoop two cups out), and add to your blender. Add the ½ cup of water to that mix, and blend until completely smooth). Pour this mix back into your soup, and stir to combine.
Stir in the kale and lime juice. The residual heat will help to add heat to all of these.
Allow soup to cool slightly then serve with some bread! Enjoy!
1 (5.3 oz) container mixed berry Greek yogurt
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup 100% pomegranate juice
Place the 3 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you like your smoothie thicker, use less juice.
Pour into a glass and enjoy!