We often accept cognitive decline as a normal part of the aging process. Forgetting where you put the keys, getting confused when using new technology – these seem to be part of our societal standards of aging. But what if it didn’t have to be the case?
Brain health is heavily dependent on lifestyle factors. And one of the most prominent ones happens to be our diet! Let’s explore the connection between nutrition and brain function for the aging brain.
What Is Cognitive Decline?
Cognitive decline is an impairment that results in memory loss and confusion. It’s a common precursor to Alzheimer’s or dementia. As we age, the cognitive decline becomes a higher risk and affects daily life activities like:
- Cooking healthy meals
- Cleaning the house
- Remembering to take medicine
- Attending social activities
- Managing personal finances
Many older adults who experience dementia move to assisted living facilities. These new homes provide them with a higher level of care than they experience at home. Older adults in assisted living facilities can enjoy nutritious meals, social activities, and medical care.
How Diet Affects Brain Health
Many people don’t realize that our brains are very finicky when it comes to food. To keep the brain happy and maintain balance, we need to consume the right amount of:
But multiple studies have found that as people age, their diets tend to change. Older adults report consuming lower calories and eating less nutrient-dense food. This dietary change can result in an imbalance of these crucial elements.
Imbalances in the diet and lack of calories can present all kinds of problems, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of memory
- Lack of focus and motivation
- Mood disorders
- Motor skills and balance
It can even lead to a slew of chronic diseases! If you can’t maintain a balanced diet on your own, consider the benefits of an assisted-living facility. Royal Garden Assisted Living in Tarzana serves nutritious homecooked meals to its residents every day!
The Perfect Diet for the Aging Brain
When it comes to the best diet for senior brain health, the science points to the Mediterranean diet! But this isn’t a diet in the traditional sense because there’s no focus on weight loss or short-term gains. Instead, the Mediterranean diet is a lifelong way of eating to maintain physical health and brain function.
Most articles about brain health incorporate principles of this diet. It focuses on plant-based food, healthy fats, and seafood. The basis of the diet centers around:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Seafood and fatty fish
Dairy, poultry, and red meat can be eaten in moderation. The Mediterranean diet is effective because it’s well-balanced and contains the perfect foods for brain health. So even if you don’t want to follow the diet, use it as a basis for creating a healthy eating plan!
Best Brain Food for Seniors
So what does it mean when we talk about a healthy eating plan? Older adult brain health is susceptible to certain diseases and loss of functions. Let’s look at the best brain foods to include in your diet!
Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer’s, and memory loss are common in older adults. Studies have found that the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of these diseases. It might be because there’s a strong emphasis on omega-3 fatty acids.
A significant part of the brain is fat, and at least half of that fat consists of omega-3 fatty acids. The brain uses these to build new cells that are essential for memory and learning. Thus, omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Try to include these foods into your diet several times a week:
- Seafood and fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia, and flaxseed
- Soy-based products like beans and milk
- Green vegetables like Brussel sprouts and spinach
Some people prefer to take a fish-oil supplement rather than relying on food. That’s a personal choice, but keep in mind that omega-3 fatty acid-rich food is always the best option!
Almost 60% of older adults believe depression is a normal part of aging. The fact is that depression shouldn’t be a part of anyone’s life, regardless of age. But certain foods have shown effectiveness when it comes to balancing mood.
Gut health is strongly linked to mood because your gut produces over 90% of the body’s serotonin. Studies have found that improving gut health is a great way to boost mood! Eating a well-balanced diet is a good start, but you can also try incorporating:
- Fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, and kombucha
- Extra fiber with whole grains and legumes
- Pro-biotic products like unsweetened yogurt
Also, try to reduce sugar and processed food high in preservatives to support gut health. Instead, choose natural alternatives whenever possible!
Prevent Age-Related Disease
Age-related diseases can sometimes sneak up on older adults! Common problems that appear as we age include:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- High blood pressure
- Parkinson’s disease
Nutritionists often recommend a wide range of “superfoods” to battle these issues. Superfoods contain powerful anti-oxidants and are packed with vitamins and minerals. They not only support brain health but whole-body health as well.
Add these delicious ingredients into your weekly meal plans:
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula
- High calcium foods like cottage cheese
- Sweet potatoes
- Green tea and good quality coffee
There are a lot of surprising ingredients that you might not even realize are superfoods. For example, cooked tomatoes have shown effectiveness in reducing the risk of prostate cancer. Many other vegetables and fruits are superfoods as well!
Senior Brain Health and Diet Go Hand in Hand!
Diet is a key factor in maintaining brain health as we get older. A well-balanced diet can increase memory, improve mood, and reduce disease risks. But older adults often struggle to eat proper meals and get enough calories.
That’s where assisted living facilities and retirement homes can help! If you’re thinking of moving on to the next phase of your life, schedule a tour at one of our Royal Garden locations. We would love to show around our communities!