Fighting Dementia Through Nutrition
Dementia is a progressive decline in cognitive functioning that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by memory loss, difficulty in problem solving and impaired judgement. Although there is no cure for dementia, research suggests that proper nutrition can help improve the quality of life for those living with dementia. This blog will explore the role of nutrition in dementia, its potential benefits, and how individuals can use nutrition to manage the symptoms associated with dementia.
Nutrition and Dementia
Nutrition is a key factor in managing the symptoms of dementia. Studies have shown that a balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients, can help to improve cognitive functioning and reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Research suggests that we should be “eating the rainbow of colors” daily. This includes leafy greens, green peppers, broccoli, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, bananas, yellow peppers, carrots, red peppers, tomatoes and eggplants, as just a few examples. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Each color provides various health benefits and no one color is superior to another, which is why a balance of all colors is most important. Getting the most phytonutrients also means eating the colorful skins, the richest sources of the phytonutrients, along with the paler flesh.”
Lean proteins, such as fish, nuts, legumes and lean red meats, are also very important nutrients needed for your immune system. Healthy fats should also be included in your daily diet: olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and avocado. These items provide omega 3 fatty acids needed for heart health function and may help in memory loss.
Fiber is important to not only keep our digestive system regular, but to also keep your heart healthy. Fiber can be found in whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread and quinoa.
In addition to a balanced diet, adequate hydration is also important for individuals with dementia. Dehydration can lead to further cognitive decline and can worsen symptoms such as confusion and disorientation. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that elderly individuals with dementia who drank more than the recommended daily amount of water had a slower rate of cognitive decline.
Our bodies need nutrients, vitamins and minerals — powerful antioxidants to keep our bodies the strongest they can be.
Nutrition and Brain Health
Nutrition is also important for brain health. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help support the brain’s natural functions and protect it from damage. For example, B vitamins have been shown to play an important role in cognitive functioning, and a deficiency in these vitamins can lead to a decline in cognitive performance. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids have been found to be beneficial for brain health, with studies showing that they can help to reduce inflammation and improve learning and memory.
A diet rich in antioxidants can help protect the brain from damage, which can help to reduce the risk of developing dementia. Antioxidants are man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, as well as flavonoids, have been found to be beneficial for brain health. Future Learn explains the impacts antioxidants have, “Once absorbed into the blood and transported into the brain, antioxidants can prevent oxidative stress to brain cells. This is particularly important, as the adult brain virtually stops replacing dead or dying neurons.”
Flavonoids and antioxidants have many health benefits and are easy to include in your diet.
Nutrition plays an important role in managing the symptoms of dementia, and a nutritious diet can help to protect the brain from damage and reduce the risk of developing dementia. A diet rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can help to support brain health and protect it from damage. Hopefully one day we will have a cure for dementia, but for now we can help fuel our bodies with what they need to fight!
Interested in learning more about Alzheimer’s and Dementia? Check out the great information below:
- Total Brain Health at American House
- Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: With Knowledge Comes Power.
- Eight Ways to Honor Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.
Information provided by Susanne Consiglio, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) in private practice in St. Clair Shores, for over 30 years. She is a health care professional, trained to provide medical nutrition therapy and lifestyle changes for health improvements. Susanne continues to stay connected, following the latest nutrition advances.
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