Research at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center) shows a link between a diet named the MIND diet and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study, published in March 2015 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, shows that strict followers of the diet saw a reduction in risk of as much as 53%, and moderate followers at around 35%. The diet blends DASH diets (designed to lower the risk of hypertension) and Mediterranean diets and promotes much more than brain health. You can also find benefits that lower the risk of heart attacks or other cardiovascular conditions if you follow this diet. For many seniors and their caregivers, balancing nutrition with taste can be difficult. Following are some of the key parts of the MIND diet and how to incorporate them into your existing meal routine.
Blueberries are a sweet superfood full of antioxidants now showing promise as a tool in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. They pair well with many dishes. Consider adding a few fresh blueberries to morning meals, such as oatmeal or cereal, or having a few on the side for an occasional bite. (They are also a great food for seniors with mobility issues to snack on. Frozen blueberries go well in smoothies or over frozen yogurt. Many chefs put them in salads, where they add a sweet to combinations of chick and spinach. Look for them in the produce or frozen sections.
A key staple of the MIND diet is leafy, green vegetables. Most leafy greens are hardy and delicious, but some persons do not know they go beyond just salad. Try cooking kale with salt and pepper, or add chard to a vegetable soup. Instead of a burger bun use a lettuce wrap. The key to leafy greens is freshness, so look for the in-season crop in the produce section.
For seniors who prefer to snack or need to maintain their protein intake, add nuts to their daily meal plan. Cashews, almonds, and peanuts are delicious ways to inject salty, sweet crunches into the day. They are filling, customizable (you can roast your own in the oven with spices, if you’d like), and easy to eat if your loved one’s teeth are strong. They also work well as a rub on chicken or fish—just crush them and roll the meat over the crushed nuts. They create a delicious smell and taste when cooked, and pack extra protein and an Alzheimer’s fight into a meal.
Fish and Poultry
Consider switching red meat for poultry or fish. Ground turkey tends to be slightly drier than ground beef. Counter that with a slower cooking time and use a little extra olive oil (another Alzheimer’s fighter). Mixing ground turkey with small onion bits also results in flavorful burger patties. Keep steak for very special occasions. Try switching to turkey bacon instead of pork in the mornings. Opt for chicken sandwiches over burgers, or cutlets over ribs. Look for sales on frozen or fresh fish near you—many types of fish still have a nice taste after being frozen, like tilapia, which pairs well with lemon, pepper and light salt. These meats tend to be lower in fat and easy to cook.
Wine, Beans, and Whole Grains
Red wine has been proven to have a positive impact in moderation, but this study shows that wine, especially less sugary wine, can help fight Alzheimer’s disease irrespective of color. If your loved one likes sweet wine, use a blend or table wine rather than a Moscato, which tends to have more sugar. Avoid cocktail mixers like soda or margarita mix, which are packed with sugar, and use a glass of wine instead. Always check with your loved one’s doctor before they drink because some medications do not mix well with alcohol!
Beans and whole grains are filling and can be inexpensive ways to include Alzheimer’s-fighting foods into your loved one’s diet. Use a turkey meat chili with three types of beans, or use whole grain bread instead of white for sandwiches. Many grocery stores and restaurants also offer bean patties and whole grain buns for burgers and sandwiches. Consider adding beans to a salad, or making a corn and bean salsa to add to chicken tacos.
Avoid Red Meat, Butter, Cheese, Sweets and Fast Food
If your loved one has trouble eating or a very selective palate, it can be difficult to entirely eliminate some foods. This is normal. Do your best to substitute these foods with alternatives, especially vegan or vegetarian options with natural ingredients. A beef patty switched for a vegan bean patty can be delicious. Or, try a portabella mushroom cap in the oven, topped with vegan cheese made from nuts. Consider subscribing to a meal delivery service which delivers healthy meals for small families to your door for a small weekly fee. This can prevent you from stopping at fast food restaurants while going home since you know you have fresh food waiting. It can be hard to change from high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar foods. But over time, it gets easier to trade a few ingredients a week. You should start slowly with the help of your loved one’s physicians since a new diet can cause disrupt routines or medicine dosages. Regardless of how you implement these changes, many changes you make can help lower your loved one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Cohen, Paula. The MIND diet: 10 foods that fight Alzheimer’s (and 5 to avoid). CBSNews.com, March 30, 2015. Available at http://www.cbsnews.com/media/mind-diet-foods-avoid-alzheimers-boost-brain-health/. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
Davies, Madlen. The 10 foods that HALVE the risk of Alzheimer’s and the 5 that harm the brain: Stock up on berries, salad and wine – but avoid cheese, pastries and sweets. Daily Mail, March 30, 2015. Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3017920/The-10-foods-HALVE-risk-Alzheimer-s-5-harm-brain-Stock-berries-salad-wine-avoid-cheese-pastries-sweets.html. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
Di Fiore, Nancy. Diet May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s. Rush University Medical Center. Available at https://www.rush.edu/news/diet-may-help-prevent-alzheimers. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
Hart, Chelsia. Memory Boosting Superfoods That Fight Alzheimer’s. Alzheimers.net, October 15, 2013. Available at http://www.alzheimers.net/2013-10-15/superfoods-that-fight-alzheimers/. Retrieved December 18, 2016.