I told my new doctor that my two long-term health goals were 1) to not have a stroke like my father, his brother and both parents had; and 2) avoid Alzheimer's disease which, tragically, struck my maternal grandmother around the age of 65. Now, comes a new book, "The Alzheimer's Diet"(which I will review later) that offers a brain-healthy diet that will benefit anyone who's over 40, has a family history of AD, or is experiencing problems with memory. Here are 11 tips from the book by Harvard-trained neurologist Richard Isaacson MD and Christopher Ochner PhD:
1. Proportion your
macronutrients. Every day, make sure that you aim for 25% of your total
calories from fat (but less than 7% saturated, or "bad" fat); 30-45% from
complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole foods that are low on the
glycemic index); and 25-35% from high-quality lean protein.
Wean yourself off high-glycemic carbs. These include sugars,
high-fructose corn syrup, processed cereals and grains, anything baked, ice
cream and sorbet, crackers, salty snacks such as chips and pretzels, and
anything made with white flour.
3. Eat Mediterranean
style. A brain-healthy Mediterranean-style diet includes fruits and
vegetables, lean protein (fish, chicken, and turkey); low-fat yogurt and
cheeses; and nuts and seeds. Stay away from red meat and processed
4. Have more good fat and less bad. Brain foods
high in good fats include: olive oil, avocados, certain nuts, natural peanut
butter, certain seeds, and certain fish. Foods high in bad, or saturated, fat
include: most fast foods, anything hydrogenated, dried coconut, butter, animal
fats, milk chocolate and white chocolate, and cheese.
your omega-3 intake. Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are essential
for memory function and brain health. Most of us don't get enough from dietary
sources (such as fish), so consider high-quality, pure fish oil supplements that
contain a minimum of 250 mg of DHA in each capsule, and aim for 1,000-1,500 mg
of DHA daily if approved by the treating physician.
6. Feed your brain
antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich foods are great for mental function.
Some of the best are berries, kale, 100% pure unsweetened cocoa powder,
mushrooms, onions, beans, seeds, sardines, herring, trout, and Alaskan wild
7. Consume enough brain vitamins. Ensure
adequate intake of folic acid, B6, B12, and vitamin D in particular. If you're
not eating vitamin-rich foods on a regular basis, it's good to supplement as
needed in pill or liquid form.
8. Choose whole foods. In
general, whole foods have only one ingredient--for example, strawberries,
broccoli, or barley. If you must have a convenience (manufactured) food on
occasion, find those packaged, canned, and frozen items with the fewest
ingredients--especially ingredients that you readily recognize and
9. Opt for low- or nonfat dairy. Any recipe
you make with full-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt can be made with nonfat versions.
If you drink whole milk or half-and-half in your coffee, try mixing it with skim
milk and increasing the proportion of no fat to high fat every day. Pretty soon
you'll be used to it and never have the urge to go back.
Enjoy a cup or two of Joe. Caffeinated coffee, 1-3 cups early in the
day, may be beneficial over time to your brain. Studies done in Europe over
several years demonstrate that men who drank coffee regularly for many years
showed less of a decline on memory tests than those who did not drink
11. Fast 12 hours at night. If you routinely
wake up at 6 a.m., try to eat your last meal at 6 p.m. the night before. There
is scientific evidence that substances called ketone bodies, which are produced
when there are no carbohydrates to burn for fuel, may have a protective effect
on brain cells.