Diet can have a dramatic impact helping to stave off age-related memory impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Even current Alzheimer’s patients can help slow the degenerative process through a healthy diet rich in particular vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Nutrients important for optimal memory functioning include vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, thiamin, and iron.
Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants that can improve cellular functioning in the brain and help reduce oxidative damage to brain cells. Vitamin C plays a key role in maintaining healthy nerve cells in the brain and in helping to prevent memory loss. Food sources of vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, tangerines, red bell peppers, kiwi, and potatoes. Vitamin E can be found in broccoli, almonds, avocados, mangoes, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.
Nerve cell membranes in the brain are protected by omega 3 fatty acids, and because the brain is the richest source of fatty acids in the human body, proper nerve functioning has a direct impact on mental functioning. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the brain against plaques associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Omega-3s can be obtained from walnuts, salmon, tuna, flax seeds, soy nuts, and trout.
Daily intake of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 appear to lower blood levels of homocysteine. High levels of this protein can damage blood vessels and cells of the brain causing age-related cognitive decline. Help ward off this type of damage by eating folate-rich foods such as orange juice, strawberries, asparagus, and dark leafy greens; vitamin B6 sources such as fish, poultry, meat, bananas, and avocados; and vitamin B12 sources including egg yolks, liver, beef, poultry, fish, shellfish, dairy products, and fortified cereals.
Zinc helps the body absorb vitamin B6 and is essential for maintaining proper nerve cell functioning. Some studies also associate low levels of zinc with the onset of dementia and memory disturbance. Zinc is found in turkey, chicken, beef, lamb, barley, wheat, oysters, and crab.
Thiamin, found in pork, sunflower seeds, nuts, and fortified cereals and grains, is essential for healthy brain cells. Antioxidants called quercetin might help brain cells resist Alzheimer's Disease. The highest concentration of quercetin is found in the skins of red apples, and can also be obtained in smaller amounts from onions, blueberries, and cranberries.
Researchers believe that iron helps to build brain neurotransmitter activity, and studies have shown iron deficiency to be linked with problems with short-term memory. Iron-rich foods include apricots, amaranth, beans, beef, chick-peas, clams, crab, lamb, oysters, prunes, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, shrimp, tofu, and turkey.
Flavonoids may slow age-related loss in mental capacity and may even reverse some age-related memory impairment by preventing free radical damage and improving blood flow. Leading food sources of flavonoids include blueberries, broccoli, carrots, onions, white grapefruit, tomatoes, lemons, oranges, apples, pomegranates, limes, chocolate, and soybeans.
Lastly, EGCG found in green tea may help protect the brain from memory-destroying Alzheimer's disease.
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