A diet for a better memory

2015-06-24 06:00

ARE you worried about becoming more and more forgetful as you age?

We have all experienced moments of forgetfulness, but what happens when simply forgetting progresses to diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

We rarely think about the long-term effect the food that we eat has, but by making small changes to your diet, you experience many health benefits and drastically reduce your risk of dementia. These small changes are not only beneficial to your brain, but also to your entire body.

A recent study conducted in Chicago compared the effect of three diets on mental health decline and the incidence of dementia.

The diets that were compared were the Dash (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean diet and the Mind (Mediterranean-Dash Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet.

The Dash diet is recommended for individuals with high blood pressure, while the Mediterranean diet is recommended for those who have a high risk of developing heart problems.

The study showed that all of the diets decreased the risk of developing dementia by at least 39%. The Mind diet was the most beneficial in maintaining optimal brain health, even though the other diets also substantially decreased the risk of developing dementia.

The Mind diet recommends the following to protect the brain:

) Consume green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage and lettuce at least six times a week;

) Have at least one other type of vegetable daily;

) Enjoy berries, like strawberries, blueberries and mulberries, twice a week;

) Have nuts, for example cashews, peanuts and walnuts, five times a week;

) Eat beans at least three times each week;

) Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, brown rice and oats, and enjoy these at least three times a day;

) Consume fish once a week;

) Consume poultry twice a week;

) Use mostly olive oil to prepare food; and

) Enjoy one glass of wine (125 ml) a day.

The researchers also warned that certain foods should be avoided and recommended the following:

) Do not consume a lot of red meat. Your portion of meat should be approximately the size of your palm;

) Have less than one tablespoon (15 ml) of butter and/or margarine a day;

) Limit cheese to one serving (around the size of a small matchbox) a week;

) Have pastries and sweets less than five times a week; and

) Eat fried or fast food less than once a week.

Investing in a healthy diet and making good food choices have proven to reduce the risk of developing dementia and Alzhei-mer’s disease and improve overall health. Making small changes to your diet as early as possible will lead to big advantages later on in life.

Making only one small change in your diet every month will soon make healthy living a habit, which will ensure optimal cognitive ability and mental health for as long as possible. Thinking about the food you choose today may result in an improvement in your ability to think tomorrow.) Shannon Lawson is a fourth-year Dietetic student at the University of the Free State (UFS)

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