We all need to follow a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet to keep our bodies performing at their best. This is certainly true for a loved one with dementia. Poor nutrition can exacerbate some of the behavioral symptoms associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In extreme cases, it can also lead to weight loss caused by a poor appetite and/or poor nutrition.
Studies show that the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s can be reduced in early stages by following a comprehensive optimized nutrition plan. There are a wide variety of good “brain foods” that have been found to aid cognitive functioning and help to ward off brain decline. For your loved one with dementia, incorporating more of these foods into their diet could mean the difference between a good day and a bad day.
1. DARK-SKINNED FRUITS
You’ve probably read about the general health benefits from eating dark-skinned fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, and red grapes. There’s a good reason to give them to a loved one with dementia, as well.
A 2012 study found that a diet high in strawberries and blueberries and other similar fruits is linked to a slower mental decline in areas like memory and focus. As it turns out, nature’s candy is packed with brain-boosting capabilities, too!
2. DARK-COLORED VEGETABLES
Did your mother ever nag you to eat your spinach? It might have seemed like the worst thing in the world at the time, but there’s more to eating dark-colored veggies than just a balanced diet.
According to researchers, spinach is high in the antioxidant lutein, which is thought to help protect against symptoms of cognitive decline. Other healthy vegetable choices include broccoli, kale, onions, red bell peppers and eggplant.
Another good-for-your-brain green food? Avocados! Delicious in a salad or as a dip for healthy chips (who doesn’t love guacamole!), avocados are full of healthy monounsaturated fats that enhance vascular health and blood flow. Try avocado mashed on wheat or whole grain toast with some cracked pepper as a tasty breakfast option.
Go nuts for healthy nut snacks, such as almonds, walnuts and pecans. Nuts are high in healthy fats and a good snack choice to feed a loved one with dementia to help maintain a healthy body weight.
Walnuts are an especially good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which enhances blood flow, thus improving oxygen flow to the brain. We suggest mixing them with some of the berries we mentioned above for the perfect salty/sweet brain-boosting combo!
5. COLD-WATER FISH
There are lots of delicious fish choices that are loaded with EPA and DHA. These omega-3 fatty acids boost communication among brain cells and assist in regulating neurotransmitters responsible for mental focus. Good fish choices? Try sardines, trout, salmon, tuna, cod, halibut, and mackerel.
Dark chocolate is an excellent antioxidant rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps improve blood flow (and thus brain function), by regulating cholesterol and reducing blood pressure. You can even go double-duty on the brain benefits by opting for a dark chocolate with almonds or walnuts added.
Too much of a good thing can take away from its benefits, though, so just make sure you don’t overindulge. Stick to one or two squares max!
Another brain-boosting superfood that’s good for dementia patients comes from a somewhat unexpected place. Eggs, along with wheat germ, offer a good source of choline. Choline is a nutrient that aids the body to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that can help boost memory.
8. OLIVE OIL
Olive oil is high in monounsaturated fats; studies have shown that this type of fat can actually slow down brain aging. In addition, this popular oil is super versatile in cooking. Use it as a substitute for butter in almost any recipe and enhance the flavors of different kinds of meats (especially fish!) and vegetables. Or, drizzle it over a salad with your favorite vinegar for a light and tasty dressing!
When you’re the caretaker for a loved one with dementia, prioritizing good nutrition is important. A diet that’s high in brain foods and low in added sugar and extra salt can help your loved one stay healthier and happier over a longer time period.
The contents of this and other individual articles are based upon the opinions of the author, unless otherwise noted. The information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of health professionals we follow and their respective communities. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.