What Foods Can Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Many studies have been conducted recently to explore possible correlations between certain foods and prevention of these diseases. But which foods should we focus on and why?

Healthy Food

By Rachael Derr, RD

Q: “Are there foods that can help reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?” 

A: The thought of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be anxiety provoking, especially if you have a family history of this disease.

Many studies have been conducted recently to explore possible correlations between certain foods and prevention of these diseases. But which foods should we focus on and why?

The official journal of the American Academy of Neurology published a study on the MIND diet.  MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The following foods are highlighted in the MIND diet:

Dark Leafy Greens/Other Vegetables
High in antioxidants and folate, several studies have shown an association between eating a diet rich in vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, and a decreased rate of cognitive decline. Aim to enjoy a salad and at least one other vegetable every day to follow the MIND guidelines.

According to the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center, “Studies in rats and mice have shown that dietary supplementation with blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries can improve cognitive function.” The most recent research out of the University of Cincinnati found an additional link between blueberries and cognitive function.  Incorporate berries into your diet at least diet twice a week to follow the MIND diet.

High in plant-based protein and unsaturated fats, nuts are a recommended snack in the MIND diet and are recommended for consumption five times per week.  Keep them on hand for a quick snack or look for menu choices such as salads that incorporate nuts as a flavorful ingredient.

Beans are good sources of plant-based protein, contain fiber and are low in fatTry going meatless three times a week by substituting beans for your meat-based protein. They will keep you full longer due to their high fiber content and are a good option for additional iron in your diet!

Whole Grains 
Whole grains are packed with protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals. Try making at least half of your grains (three servings) whole grains. Consuming a diet high in whole grains can help lower the risk of several chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids from Fish 
DHA found in omega-3 fatty acids can have positive effects on cognitive health. The MIND diet recommends eating fish high in omega 3s, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna, once a week.

Choose lean cuts of poultry, like breast meat, and try grilling, broiling, or baking for the healthiest preparation methods. Shoot for two or more servings of poultry per week, according to the MIND diet.

Unsaturated Fats
Research has shown people who use olive oil as their primary cooking oil saw a greater protection against cognitive decline. The MIND diet recommends staying away from foods that have high saturated fat content, such as red meat, butter and stick margarines, deep fried foods, pastries and cheese.

Red Wine 
The MIND diet recommends consuming one glass of red wine per day, because of the antioxidants and resveratrol found in red wine.

Conclusions of this study showed that among older adults, adherence to the MIND diet was associated with less brain decline.  Although not definitive for Alzheimer’s prevention, it is a step in the right direction for positive correlation between nutrition and cognitive health.