How much of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables? What is the best way to get the protein you need? If you have healthy diet questions, a great place to start is MyPlate.gov where you can easily discover what you should be eating from the 5 food groups:
- Protein Foods
The right diet creates strong bones, muscles and immune systems, to name only a few. But don’t forget the impact that nutrients can have on your brain. No matter what age you may be, keeping your brain performing at peak condition is essential.
Why eating well is important to seniors’ brain health
Fueling your brain with nutritious foods provides the fuel it needs to operate at optimal level. You don’t want to shortchange the part of your body that keeps everything running and regulated every single minute of the day – even while you sleep.
Your diet affects the structure and function of your brain and your mood, according to Harvard Medical School’s health blog. Eating processed foods or refined sugars can actually damage your brain by:
- Worsening your body’s regulation of insulin
- Promoting inflammation
- Promoting oxidative stress (waste produced when the body uses oxygen)
- Impairing brain function
- Worsening symptoms of mood disorders
Tips to boost seniors’ brain health
Food plays a major role in how you feel and function, especially as you grow older. Consider these suggestions to make sure your diet is working for you:
- Pay attention to how different foods may make you feel
How do you feel after eating a meal? Try cutting out processed foods and refined sugar for two to three weeks and see if you notice a difference. Introduce these foods back one at a time and see how you feel. Some people report feeling better physically and emotionally after eliminating these foods and worse when they’re re-introduced.
- Keep the big picture in mind
The effect of a healthy diet is similar to exercising or getting enough sleep. Negative outcomes can’t be undone when right choices are made only once or twice a week.
The benefits or detriments are cumulative. Consider which food types you mostly eat. Is it fast food? Fruits and vegetables? Starchy carbohydrates? Look for areas you can change to improve your diet and brain health.
- Go beyond your diet
To optimize your brain health, the food you use for fuel is critical; but don’t stop at your diet. Learn about the other steps you can take that also impact your brain function.
Make sure to get enough sleep every night, keep hydrated, exercise regularly and find ways to reduce the stress in your life or relieve it through yoga or meditation.
- Decide if you need to overhaul your diet
You may not be aware of the type of foods you typically eat. Keeping a food diary can open your eyes to how many sweets you might indulge in or the number of vegetable servings you eat daily.
Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and lean protein may reduce the risk of depression, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. They can also improve your mood, memory and other brain benefits.
Foods to improve seniors’ brain health
The following foods can guide you on your way to eating a brain healthy diet:
- Eat green, leafy vegetables
Load up your diet with kale, spinach, collard greens and broccoli to benefit from the brain-healthy nutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta-carotene.
- Add more fish to your diet
Salmon, trout and sardines are full of omega-3 fatty acids which are major building blocks of the brain. They play a key role in sharpening memory, improving mood and protecting your brain against decline.
- Include berries
Make sure to add a variety of berries to your diet, which contain flavonoids that help improve your memory.
- Enjoy a morning cup of coffee or tea
For those that believe they can’t function effectively until they’ve had their coffee, there’s evidence to back that up. Caffeine and antioxidants found in tea and coffee help sharpen your concentration.
- Nuts are good for the brain
Not only tasty, nuts make a great snack and as they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, your memory may be improved.
- Add spice to life
Include turmeric – with its active compound curcumin – in your diet and benefit from its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant advantages. These can help reduce symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Chocolate is good for you
Dark chocolate, that is. Along with cocoa powder, you’ll find brain-boosting compounds that include flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants.
Source: The University of Washington health blog
Life at Tapestry Senior Living communities
Eating nutritious food is not only critical but can also be delicious. The contributions made to your physical health extend as well to your brain. We hope the above tips help you ensure you’re providing the right fuel to optimize your life.
If you or a family member is considering retirement living, we invite you to visit one of our Tapestry Senior Living communities. We believe you’ll discover how your efforts to age well and live an enriched and full life will be supported.
Along with maintenance-free living, you’ll enjoy spending time on what brings you the most joy, such as:
- Remaining meaningfully engaged
- Making friends and sharing your life experiences
- Participating in educational, informative and fun activities
- Enjoying an active social life with others
- Belonging to a larger community
We understand that choosing the right community is an important decision and we are here to answer any questions that you may have.
We also invite you to download our complimentary guide – Family Decision Toolkit: How to choose the right senior living community.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a personal tour, please contact one of our advisors at a community near you.