Our diet plays a pivotal role in determining our weight as well as our physical health. As such, a diet full of foods that are good for our body reduces our risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease – but also keeps our mind healthy.
An increasing body of research in recent years has shown that the risk of dementia like vascular dementia can increase or decrease depending on a person’s diet. Some foods are said to be mental boosters – improving memory and concentration – while others are linked to mental decline. In this article, we’re concerned with the foods you should be avoiding. But before we list all of those foods, let’s walk through why certain foods can negatively affect our mental prowess – particularly for older people.
What type of food causes mental decline and why?
In order to be at peak operating condition, our brains need to have access to the proper vitamins, minerals, lean proteins and fats as well as a decent daily dosage of fruit and veg as they provide phytochemicals which are believed to protect from certain diseases. Leafy greens, fish, beans, oranges, dark chocolate, raspberries and extra virgin olive oil are just some examples of the foods that help to keep our brains in good condition. When we have too little of these foods, then it could either be that we are instead stuffing ourselves full of processed foods, sugars and too many complex carbs or not eating enough of the foods that help out brains.
The problem is that foods that are high in the latter qualities can produce inflammatory toxins within your body if you aren’t consuming enough of the aforementioned healthy foods. This can bring about inflammation and robs the brain of the substance that clears beta-amyloid (which can build up and form plaques that are the hallmark trait of Alzheimer’s) from the brain, affecting cognitive function in the long run.
So, with that in mind, what are the offending foods that you should avoid?
Foods to avoid if you want to reduce the risk of dementia
There are three broad categories for the foods that are the worst for our brain:
- White foods
- Products containing nitrate or diacetyl
- Processed meats & other processed foods
The term ‘white foods’ is something that is found in the diet of nearly all westerners. For those that aren’t sure of the phrase, it generally refers to food that has been refined, processed and is often white in colour. Examples of this include the likes of white rice, pasta, white flour, white bread and white sugar.
However, there are white foods that are somewhat healthier and not refined – such as onions, white beans and white potatoes. The white foods that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s are the refined, processed ones and should be avoided. Often, they’re packed full of carbohydrates which have been linked to a rise in blood sugar and inflammation which can incite the development of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Studies show that those with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s.
Products containing nitrate or diacetyl
Diacetyl and nitrate are often added to foods for flavouring purposes and to preserve processed and cured meats respectively. Diacetyl is often found in the likes of cheese, milk, butter, margarine and microwave popcorn, and is a known cause of amyloid plaques on the brain. Nitrate, meanwhile, is often found in canned meat and beer and is said to accelerate ageing of the brain.
Cutting down on products containing these foods is an essential part of preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Processed meats & other processed foods
You’ll want to avoid foods that are processed if you want to reduce your chance of Alzheimer’s disease. Processed foods tend to be high in salt, sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial additives. This also includes nitrites as well as nitrosamines. These ingredients can damage our brain function and can create toxic fat in our livers that attack our brains.
Examples include bacon, ham, sausages, smoked turkey and other smoked meats. However, this also includes processed cheeses such as processed slices, stringy cheese, mozzarella sticks and cheese that you squeeze from a tube. Processed cheeses produce proteins in our bodies that can be linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Make sure your loved ones are eating the right foods
For those who are worried about their elderly loved ones not getting the right nutrition, it can be challenging to address this matter without professional help.
Thankfully, Better Healthcare is here. Our specialist home and live-in care teams are trained in all matters of nutrition and healthy eating – ensuring that they are prepared to help clients enjoy a healthier lifestyle. This includes shopping for good quality ingredients, meal preparation and even assisting clients in sticking to a food plan.
We can also help to improve the diets of people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as a way of trying to delay the onset of further symptoms, ease the symptoms of depression and to keep them feeling healthy for as long as possible.
To find out more about how our carers can help around the home – either once a day or 24/7 – then please call us on 0800 668 1234 or get in touch with your local Better Healthcare Services office today.
If you found this interesting, you might also enjoy:
- Remember to eat and drink: How Better Healthcare carers help clients with dementia to stay healthy
- The link between dementia and depression
- Why people with chronic illness have a higher risk of depression
- Identifying signs that your loved one is depressed
- How to support a loved one with mental health
This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.