By Charlyn Fargo
Whatever your holidays look like this year, you can help your brain stay healthy with foods that support brain health. This is a great time to start a new food tradition with immediate family — since our traditions have already changed in the last few years.
There is promising research that nutrition interventions for the holidays and beyond can help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Current research shows that it is dietary patterns — rather than individual nutrients or specific foods — that can prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Just what dietary patterns can help? The Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet and the Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. Choose one — or combine them — to help your thinking.
A quick primer on the diets: The Mediterranean diet consists of foods traditionally eaten in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, olive oil and moderate consumption of red wine. A whole host of health benefits have been attributed to the diet, such as reduced rate of death, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as protection against cognitive decline, according to an article in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet also has shown promise in improving neurocognitive function. It focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and low sodium.
The Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND, diet combines the Mediterranean and DASH diets — with the addition of foods that have been shown to benefit cognitive health, such as green, leafy vegetables and berries.
To get the most cognitive benefit from foods, add fish and seafood, green leafy vegetables, berries and olive oil to your holiday dishes. Put them together in a meal and there is a synergistic effect.
The bottom line? It’s important to think about what you’re putting into your body — even for brain function. Choose healthier foods and even your brain is going to benefit.
Q and A
Q: Are almonds as healthy as everyone says?
A: It appears they are — in the right portion. In a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, snacking on almonds daily lowered risk of cardiovascular disease by 32%. Study participants were men and women ages 30 to 70 at a high risk for developing cardiovascular disease. After two weeks of eating traditional snacks, participants were divided into two groups. One group at mini muffins for four weeks; the other ate whole almonds. Both snacks provided 20% of daily calories. At the end of the six weeks, the almond snackers lowered their low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol and improved endothelial function, two important risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Here’s a healthy recipe from Taste of Home that combines fiber-rich quinoa with roasted vegetables. It makes a great side dish or lunch on its own.
QUINOA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES
1 small eggplant, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, diced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup each minced fresh basil, parsley and chives
Place vegetables and garlic in an ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add quinoa. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat; fluff with a fork. Transfer vegetables and quinoa to a large bowl. Whisk the vinegar, mustard and remaining oil; drizzle over vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with herbs; toss to combine. Serves 8 (3/4 cup each).
Per serving: 222 calories; 7 grams protein; 31 grams carbohydrate; 9 grams fat (1gram saturated fat); 0 grams cholesterol; 5 grams fiber; 4 grams sugar, 388 milligrams sodium; 7grams protein.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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