Over the holidays and spending time with aging family members, I really became aware of how forgetful they were becoming, how they had trouble recollecting memories or were experiencing general confusion. I started reading up on these issues and discovered that this is something we really need to be concerned about.
I first found this overwhelming statistic that stated if we live to the age of 85, half of us will more than likely develop Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba there are more than 22,500 Manitobans that have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This number is growing at an alarming rate and by 2038 it is expected to reach over 40,700!
There are of course risk factors listed on their website and areas that we should look at changing in our lifestyle, but there is no known cure at this time. Now this of course is alarming because we easily take our organs for granted and our brains have a 24/7 job like the rest of them! Unlike the other organs that perhaps have a main job, our brains are responsible for multiple!! Our brain is responsible not just for our thoughts, but our breathing, our organ functions, our movements and is basically the power source of our whole body!
So if there is no cure and we need our brains to be fully functioning, I of course then looked further into preventative information.
One of the common threads I was seeing in my research all pointed towards our gut health. Apparently, our gut is a major contributor to brain issues, cognitive decline and memory issues if we have insulin resistance (aka diabesity). Some researchers have now begun to call Alzheimer’s disease type 3 diabetes and say that our guts are actually our 2nd brain. So nutrition is the key if prevention is the focus!
The good news is that a brain diet basically consists of eating wholesome colourful foods, a rainbow of brain nourishment! Plant pigments found in those colourful foods can feed our brains the vital nutrients they need. Here are just some of those pigments and where you can find them.
lycopene foods –RED/PINK an antioxidant pigment that helps combat free radicals (those wayward, naturally occurring cells that cause big time stress on our bodies, which can lead to premature aging & disease) – look to tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya and watermelon! Lycopene’s antioxidant properties may help prevent seizures and memory loss experienced in age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
chlorophyll foods – GREEN and probably the most well known as a vital source of energy but did you know they optimize our brain function?! Yup! They say chlorophyll is the blood of plants and is comparable to our own and when we introduce them into our bodies it’s like having an energy transfusion! All green veggies contain chlorophyll however some are definitely better than others such as spinach compared to broccoli which is actually considered more white. You want a green that goes green throughout. Look to those leafy greens as those are the best source but also kelp, algae, spirulina and don’t forget those green tops from beets & carrots!
beta carotene foods – ORANGE and long known as being beneficial for vision and skin, but carotene foods have now been thought to reduce the risk of cognitive decline in men (according to a report released in the Nov. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine). Researchers found that oxidative stress, which damages brain cells, is a major contributor to the aging of the brain and associated cognitive decline. This beautiful vibrant pigment is also found in sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, peppers & apricots to name a few. For best absorption of this fat soluble vitamin, try adding oil or nuts.
anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid) foods – BLUE/PURPLE & RED found in the skins of glorious blueberries, blackberries, grapes, strawberries, pomegranates, kidney beans & red onions just to name a few!! They are probably the most consumed as there is such a variety of foods that offer these. Some of the many anthocyanin benefits that research has uncovered include fighting heart disease, cancer, memory loss and neurological disorders.
Besides a rainbow diet to keep our brains healthy, there are a few other suggestions such as taking time to learn something new like playing an instrument, learning to play a new sport or finding a new hobby to learn. Keep our brains ignited through learning but be sure to also disconnect from devices! Turn off the TV, put away the iPhone and instead start connecting with others. Play a game of cards with a friend, enjoy a coffee together with good o’l conversation or best of all connect with ourselves out in nature. Fresh air, exercise, laughter and some colour are the perfect prescription I think for prevention of many health issues, but certainly for brain health.
Next Up – Brain Health: Continuing the conversation – ” All Things Bubbly”