8 Best Foods for Dementia Patients To Eat
"You are what you eat."
We surely are what we eat. Our health reflects our eating habits, and it's not just limited to the physical aspects of health but physiological as well; our brain works according to the nutrition we provide to it.
Speaking of the brain, many health conditions affect the brain's function and cognitive processes, one of such conditions is Dementia. Studies suggest that certain nutrients can help with the cognitive decline caused by Dementia and improve the quality of life for people with Dementia.
Many foods contain such brain-boosting nutrients, and planning a Dementia patient's diet around these foods can be amazingly therapeutic for him. Here is a list of such foods:
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rightly referred to as the powerhouse vegetables, as they contain several powerful nutrients and vitamins that boost your health.
Leafy and darker greens such as Spinach, Kale, Romaine, Arugula, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens and Swiss Chards are nature's bounties bestowed upon us. The crunchy feel and juicy taste of these greens are an added advantage to their fantastic health benefits.
Nutritional Importance of Leafy Greens:
Vitamin E, Essential B Vitamins (including B9 and folate), and Vitamin K are some of the nutritional treasures you can garner from these super veggies! Leafy Greens must be included in Dementia patients' diets as Vitamin B9 improves cognitive function, especially in older adults. Folate is also beneficial for such patients as it stabilizes mood and helps ward off depression, a common symptom of Dementia. Vitamin E is also shown to have brain-boosting effects. Vitamin K present in leafy greens has antioxidant properties that protect the brain.
It's suggested to eat at least one cup of these veggies every day. You can either munch on the raw greens, make delicious salads out of them, or add them in sauces such as hummus, totally your choice!
2. Berries and Cherries
What's better than a fruit that satisfies your taste buds as well as strengthens your brain? Berries and cherries do just that!
Several kinds of berries such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries are packed with nutrients that are good for the brain.
All types of berries and cherries contain this one nutrient that is important for the brain: Anthocyanin.
Anthocyanin is a flavonoid that shields your brain from the damaging effects of free radicals. These free radicals are molecules that harm the brain in many ways, resulting in adverse consequences such as cognitive decline and aging. Anthocyanin stops this from happening.
Although a variety of berries and cherries are rich in Anthocyanin and other powerful nutrients, blueberries make the cut as they contain the most amount of antioxidants and Vitamins (including Vitamin C and E). These antioxidants and vitamins help reduce inflammation and boost brain function.
It's recommended to eat half a cup of your choice of berries/cherries, three times a week.
Crunchy, tasty and healthy-nuts are a truly wholesome snack. Be it cashews, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans or hazelnuts-all are packed with nutrients that work to improve (and prevent) cognitive decline and uplift mood.
A handful of nuts packs an immense amount of powerful nutrients such as Essential B Vitamins (including Vitamin B6 and Folate), Vitamin E, magnesium, healthy fats, and fatty acids (including Omega-3 and Omega-6).
All of these nutrients benefit brain health in one way or another.
Folate helps improve mood, whereas magnesium is good for anxiety.
Walnuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is known to protect the brain. English walnuts, in particular, are known to protect the brain cells against inflammation. They have anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that ward off inflammation, helping the brain maintain its optimal function throughout the aging process. All these benefits of nuts make them a perfect eating option for dementia patients.
It's recommended to consume at least a handful (¼ cup) of unsalted nuts daily to reap its brain-boosting benefits.
Fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna are rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to improve brain function. Many studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids boost the brain, thereby helping prevent signs and symptoms of Dementia.
According to a study, people over the age of 65 who consumed fatty fish (fish rich in Omega-3) at least three times per week, were found to be at 26% lower risk of developing dementia-causing brain lesions compared to those people who did not eat the fish.
These fish are good sources of DHA, which is also known to contribute to better brain health. Apart from Omega-3 and DHA, all fishes are rich in Iron and Iodine. Iron and Iodine are good for maintaining cognitive function.
It's recommended to consume about 200mg of DHA every day to keep your brain working properly.
5. Cruciferous Veggies
Cruciferous vegetables are those that belong to the cabbage family (Cruciferae). Different cruciferous vegetables have various health benefits, all leading to better brain health.
Cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage are some of the cruciferous vegetables high in B Vitamins and carotenoids. These nutrients can suppress cognitive decline because they reduce the levels of homocysteine (an amino acid that is linked to impaired cognition and brain atrophy and contributes to the development of Dementia.)
Some cruciferous vegetables are rich in powerful antioxidants such as Glucosinolates and Vitamin K, which help protect the brain against oxidative stress.
It's recommended to include at least three servings of half-cup cruciferous veggies in your diet per week.
Spices such as cinnamon, sage, cumin, and turmeric are packed with memory-boosting compounds (polyphenols) and antioxidants.
Cinnamon, a spice used in many food recipes, does so much more than just giving flavor to your food. It improves your memory and enhances cognitive processes.
A study showed that participants who consumed Sage showed better performance in memory tests than those who didn't.
What's more, curcumin (a compound present in turmeric) has shown to clear up brain plaque and reduce inflammation, leading to better brain health. Therefore, spices are good for Dementia patients.
Different varieties of seeds provide various brain-related benefits. The best thing about including seeds in your diet is that they can be consumed quickly, and you don't have to consume them in very large quantities to get the benefits that they offer.
Sunflower seeds contain a compound called choline, which is known to improve brain function.
Pumpkin seeds are also great for brain health as they contain zinc, a nutrient that improves cognitive functions and memory. They also contain an amino acid called Tryptophan that helps ward off depression.
Flaxseeds are packed with the brain-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids. All in all, seeds are a great source of healthful nutrients for Dementia patients. You can either snack on these seeds alone, put them into salads, or include them in desserts like muffins or cakes to obtain their health benefits.
Beans, legumes, lentils, and chickpeas are all great sources of healthy nutrition. They contain a combination of healthful vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre, all of which boost the brain in different ways.
Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, and Folate are just some of the powerful nutrients present in legumes and beans. All of these nutrients work in different ways to enhance brain function.
Magnesium calms the brain and wards off anxiety/stress, whereas Iron is known to boost cognition. Folate helps with depression and improves mood and behavior, whereas Potassium promotes clarity of thought. All of these benefits of beans can help Dementia patients to improve their condition.
Beans also contain a B Vitamin called Choline, which improves brain function by boosting Acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter essential for healthy brain function). It's recommended to take at least half a cup of beans twice a week to reap these benefits.
What Foods Should Dementia Patients Avoid: Risk Factors and Food Alternatives
Now that you know what foods are best to include in a Dementia patient's diet plan, it's time to know what foods should never be made a part of it. Many foods are usually a part of the western diet, but they're not suitable for the sufferers of brain conditions such as Dementia and Alzheimer's. These foods are now considered as risk factors for such conditions.
These foods include processed meat, red meat, sweets, desserts, and refined grains. Foods that are high in calories and saturated fatty acids are also a risk factor for dementia patients. Excess alcohol consumption also contributes significantly to the development of brain conditions.
Alternatives for these foods:
- Eat chicken instead of red or processed meats.
- Consume whole grains like brown rice, oats and whole-grain wheat instead of refined grains
Foods such as nuts, fish, seeds, leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, berries/cherries, beans, and spices should essentially be a part of a Dementia patient's diet as all of them have excellent brain-health benefits.