The beginning of another year often brings with it some reflection, resetting and resolutions for betterment, especially when it comes to our diet. This year, rather than just focusing on our waistlines, why not also turn your attention to the body part that is the master of it all – your brain!
A brain-healthy diet simply means eating foods that are known to have health benefits for your brain. Nutritional experts in the in-home healthcare space and aged care providers will agree that you can’t go wrong eating fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains while limiting processed foods and added sugars.
Eating a well-balanced, brain fuelled diet is an important part of staying healthy as you age. It helps maintain a healthy weight, stay energised, and ensures you are getting the nutrients your body needs. It can also lower your risk of developing chronic health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
What we eat can improve the health of our brains when we choose foods that help fight free-radical damage and inflammation in the brain. Antioxidant rich foods such as fruit, especially berries, and vegetables, including leafy greens, are the perfect enemy to free radical damage. Eating more of these antioxidant rich foods are commonly recommended by my aged care providers.
Home Care Assistance has been supporting brain healthy eating for years through their proprietary Balanced Care Method TM and can keep you motivated and on track.
Summer in Australia is a great time to explore and increase the variety of fruits and vegetables we consume to improve our brain health. Not only are they full of flavour, vitamins, and minerals which support a healthy brain, they can help fight the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A colourful fruit salad can be a refreshing start to a hot day and a cool summer’s salad can be a delicious lunch or dinner alternative to weave into your routine.
The Mediterranean Diet
In addition to increasing your fruit and veggie intake, research over the years points to a few recognised ‘diets’ or approaches when it comes to eating for brain health. Many my aged care providers and in-home care services would suggest the Mediterranean diet. This includes a focus on eating whole grains and healthy olive oil, in addition to fruits and vegetables. Researchers have found that those who closely followed a Mediterranean-like diet were less likely to lose brain volume as they aged, and it served as a protective factor against memory decline. Swapping out your usual cereals or toast for whole grain options with seeds and nuts is a simple step in the right direction.
Dash, & MIND Diets
Another popular approach to brain healthy eating is the Dash diet which focuses on lowering blood pressure, which when combined with exercise, has been shown to have some benefit on brain function. Combining the principles of the two is the MIND diet. Founded by Dr Clare Morris, this approach is more specific in its recommendations, encouraging lots of green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, and olive oil. Being MINDful in your eating may lower your risk of dementia and give your brain all the nutrients it needs
Here are three key tips to setting up your brain healthy eating habits: Make it easy, make it tasty and make it together.
1. Make it easy – A little preparation will help get you off on the right track and any in-home care services can help. Try and have two or three healthy foods that are easy to eat and available such as ready cut carrot sticks, or a great nut and seed combo for snacking on. A baking afternoon on a weekend could help you have some pre-prepared healthy meals to simply reheat during the week, or some whole grain baked goods to snack on.
2. Make it tasty – Food is fabulous and is supposed to taste delicious. Consider limiting salt and experiment with new recipes and jazz up what might seem like average staples with lots of fresh herbs and spices instead to ensure that foods that are good for you will also appeal to your taste buds. Too much sodium (salt) can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
3. Make it together – Healthy brain eating isn’t all about food. It is also about community and relationships. Preparing meals together with family, or anyone providing care in the home, can help keep everyone accountable and help find new ideas to incorporate more fruit and veggies into your diet. Eating together also improves relationships and will stimulate cognition through conversation too.
Home Care Assistance in-home care workers provide support with nutrition, meal planning and cooking. They understand the importance of a balanced and nutrition rich diet for seniors ageing in place while also providing peace of mind for the family, knowing that their loved one is eating well and being cared for.
It may surprise you that eating for brain health is not that dissimilar to eating for heart health, what a bonus! If you need some great recipe ideas to help you get going, The Heart Foundation provides some great recipe ideas that not only taste delicious but are quick and easy. Each recipe tells you how long it will take to pull together, involves readily available ingredients and preparation times starting at only a few minutes!
If you think that eating for brain health will require quite a change, remember that every step in the right direction is beneficial and worthwhile. Adjusting our eating and creating new and improved habits can take time, so be patient and kind to yourself. Eating well for your brain is a long-term investment, but it will help support cognitive vitality, and have you feeling and functioning at your best for now and well into the future.
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As a leading age care provider, Home Care Assistance offers tailored in-home care services for older Australians, enabling them to live happier and healthier lives in the comfort of their own homes.
We offer private and government subsidised Care Packages and have office locations that are a registered NDIS provider. Our Care Workers undergo extensive training in order to deliver unmatched in-home aged care services where people can continue ageing in place. We are proud ambassadors of the My Aged Care government funded aged care program, enabling Australians to successfully navigate the process and gain approval for in-home care support packages. Home Care Assistance offers hourly care, specialised care, Alzheimer’s and Dementia care, hospital to home care, and 24 hour in home care.