Is there a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease with the foods you eat?
Researchers behind a study published in the journal Neurology found that antioxidants have been shown to reduce inflammation that may contribute to Alzheimer’s. In the study, participants who at the highest amount of flavonols, a type of antioxidant, were 48 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s how it works: Antioxidants are a type of molecule that neutralize free radicals and reduce their damage. Free radicals are molecules associated with aging, as well as cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s. Vitamins A, C and E are rich in antioxidants and are found abundantly in fruits and vegetables. B vitamins are also linked to brain health and development of new brain cells.
So, what are the foods that keep our minds young? Fill your plate with berries, nonstarchy veggies, olive oil, fish, poultry, leafy greens, nuts, whole grains, beans and red wine for starters.
Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, are packed with flavonoids, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to combat inflammation and stress, two factors that may contribute to cognitive impairment.
Nonstarchy veggies, such as asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and carrots, are fiber-rich and good sources of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E.
Olive oil contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids. A 2012 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that, compared to other types of fat, monounsaturated fatty acids are associated with less cognitive decline over a three-year period.
Salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, chicken and turkey breast all contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that clusters in the brain and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.
Leafy greens are linked to brain health because they have antioxidant-rich nutrients like folate and vitamin E, which protects brain cells from free radical damage. Folate deficiency is associated with depression and dementia.
In addition, whole grains contain vitamin B1, which helps protect against memory loss and confusion. Beans are also a good source of B vitamins, which help cells produce energy and form neurotransmitters in the brain.
The bottom line: We need to think about what we’re eating to stave off not only Alzheimer’s but also diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. What we put into our mouths truly makes a difference.
Q: Should I eat protein after I exercise?
A: After exercise, protein synthesis causes our muscles to increase in size and strength. Dietary protein supports muscle growth, according to Roger Fielding, director of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.
Muscles are more sensitive to dietary protein after exercise. Rates of muscle protein synthesis seem to increase to a greater extent if you consume protein within four hours after exercising. Getting adequate protein throughout the day rather than in one meal is the best way to preserve muscle mass and support growth from exercise.
Quinoa Salad with Radicchio, Carrots and Dried Apricots
Here’s a great summer salad to beat the heat and add to your daily intake of antioxidants. It’s from EatingWell magazine.
» 3 cups water
» 1½ cups quinoa
» ⅓ cup pepitas
» ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds
» 6 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
» ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
» 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey
» 1¼ teaspoon kosher salt
» ½ teaspoon ground pepper
» ½ medium head radicchio, coarsely chopped
» 1 cup coarsely grated carrots
» ½ cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain any remaining liquid, and spread the quinoa on a rimmed baking sheet to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast pepitas in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Add sunflower seeds, and cook, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Whisk vinegar, oil, maple syrup (or honey), salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the cooled quinoa, radicchio, carrots and apricots; stir to combine. Just before serving, top the salad with the pepitas and sunflower seeds.
Serves 8 (Serving size: 1 cup)
Per serving: 286 calories; 8 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat); 4 grams fiber; 316 milligrams sodium
— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.