Do multivitamins increase Alzheimer’s disease risk? Can sweet potatoes improve mental clarity? Power Foods for the Brain, a new book by Physicians Committee president and nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., reveals how diet and lifestyle changes can shield the brain from memory loss, stroke, and Alzheimer’s.
Power Foods for the Brain presents the latest and most compelling research on nutrition’s surprising effects on the brain. Dr. Barnard also lays out his three-step plan to protect the mind and strengthen the memory: Put power foods to work, strengthen your brain, and defeat memory threats.
“Every minute, our brain cells are bathing in the nutrients—or toxins—we take in through food,” says Dr. Barnard. “Just as we put money in a retirement account to ensure a secure future, we can put foods on our plates today to help keep the brain in high gear well into the future.”
Research overwhelmingly shows that “bad fats”—such as the saturated fat found in red meat and butter—greatly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and reduce brain functioning in the short term. But conclusive evidence demonstrates that eating foods rich in vitamin E—such as almonds and sunflower seeds—may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 70 percent.
Power Foods for the Brain identifies these and the dozens of other brain-trigger foods that are consumed on a daily basis and offers tips and insights on how to build back up brain health. The book also includes 75 power-food recipes, sample mental stimulation exercises, guides to choosing aluminum-free foods and medicines, and a guide to physical exercise.
This spring, you can also watch Protect Your Memory with Dr. Neal Barnard on PBS. Check local listings for dates and times.
DIET ADVICE FOR PROTECTING YOUR BRAIN:
1. Make a power plate at every meal. One quarter the plate should be filled with fruits, one quarter with grains, one quarter with legumes, and one quarter with vegetables.
2. Do colorful combinations of foods. Combining sweet potatoes with kale or oranges with apples will ensure that you get a variety of vitamins and other plant chemicals that work synergistically to promote good brain health. If some of the vegetables are too bitter for your taste, the book recommends spritzing them with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to bring in some sour notes. I also loved the fresh mint they added to the fruit kabobs.
3. Get creative with legumes. Vegans use these are their main source of protein, so think hummus, tofu, tempeh, as well as beans, lentils and peas.
4. Learn to prepare foods without oil. The book recommends dry sauteeing vegetables. I’m assuming over low heat, so they won’t burn. You can also cook vegetables and grains in vegetable broth for added flavor or—if you must—spray on a little olive oil from a diffuser.
5. Don’t forget the nuts and seeds. Sprinkle nuts and seeds on your salads, grains, and morning oatmeal to get omega-3 fats and vitamin E, both beneficial for the brain.
6. Skip all supplements, except one containing a B-12. Vegetarians often lack B12—essential for proper brain function—in their diets since it’s found mainly in animal products like beef, turkey, and pork. so the book recommends taking a daily supplement.