By Maj. Stephanie Gasper, Tripler Army Medical CenterMarch 17, 2017
HONOLULU (Mar. 17, 2017) - Ever walk into a room and can't remember why you are there? Or, are you frequently forgetting things like where you left your keys? Forgetfulness or difficulty remembering details can be related to several factors including what you eat.
Research indicates that diet has an impact on our ability to remember. The Mediterranean diet which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and seeds, in particular has been linked to a variety of health benefits including lowering rates of dementia due to Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment.
Conversely, diets that are high in saturated fats (like those found in red meats and dairy) and refined carbohydrates, are linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, all of which are believed to contribute to memory loss and cognitive decline. To boost your brainpower try adding these foods to your daily routine.
Healthy Fats - Yes, fat can be good for us! In addition to providing food flavor, unsaturated fats especially Omega 3-fatty acids are linked to a variety of brain benefits including improved mood, memory, and cognition. Omega-3s also have heart-health and anti-inflammatory properties which make them a great addition to the diet.
Further benefits are also seen in diets high in monounsaturated fats (such as olive oil). Monounsaturated fats help increase the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which plays a critical role in learning and memory. Fat should account for approximately 20-35 percent of total calories for the average adult. Fat is our most energy dense nutrient so, eat them as part of a balanced diet to avoid any unwanted weight gain. Switch out the butter or lard with these fats instead:
• Seeds: Sunflower seeds, Chia Seeds, Ground flaxseed
• Oils: Olive, Walnut, Grape seed, Sesame, Canola, Soybean
• Nuts and Nut Butters: Almonds, Hazelnuts, Walnuts, Pecan
• Fatty Fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Albacore Tuna, Sardines
Vegetables - Consumption of fruit and vegetables are associated with a significant reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants essential for good health and the prevention of disease. The different colors signify different phytonutrients so include as many plant-based colors in your daily diet as possible. The USDA recommends filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies at every meal. To meet this goal, try adding the following veggie powerhouses:
• Mustard Greens
• Red Onion
• Brussels Sprouts
• Red Bell Peppers
Berries- Adding berries to part of your diet as few as once per week may slow the rate of developing age related memory problems.
Current research has shown that certain compounds found in the berries concentrate in brain centers responsible for memory and learning. Berries are also a great source of fiber which helps to increase feelings of satiety and also reduces appetite so you feel fuller without adding a lot of additional calories. Berries are easily added to a variety of dishes like cereals or salads or, you can just grab a bowl and start snacking on these sweet treats on their own:
• Acai Berries
• Gogi Berries
To keep your mind sharp remember fresh is usually the best. Diets that include a steady source of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, unrefined grains and fish are associated with better cognition and overall health. Look for food items with minimal processing and engage in a lifestyle that involves regular physical activity for an added brainpower boost.
For more information on nutrition, please contact the Tripler Army Medical Center Nutrition Clinic at 808-433-4950.