Is there anything we can do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?
Do we have to accept that memory loss is just part of the natural progression of aging?
The Memory Diet introduces a powerful plant-based diet of leafy greens, vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, and whole grains that can slow down or even eliminate cognitive decline. The more than 150 healthy recipes—from awesome appetizers and exceptional entrees to spectacular salads and super soups—are all free of white sugar, processed ingredients, and gluten.
The Memory Diet’s brain-boosting recipes are based on the Mediterranean Intervention Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet, a diet plan that may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent.
In addition, you will learn how to cook these foods the correct way, as many cooking methods actually cause biochemical changes in the food we eat that can negatively affect our brain health, accelerate the aging process, and cause memory decline.
Here we share an excerpt from Chapter 2 on Food for Thought: The Power of Diet.
Your diet can influence not only the health of your body, but the health of your brain as well. The standard American diet is responsible for many serious health problems because it is filled with processed foods, sugars, simple carbohydrates, and saturated and trans fat. Eating a well-balanced diet that emphasizes certain foods can truly help your brain and form a protective barrier around what we value most: a lifetime of memories, acquired knowledge, and earned wisdom!
New research published by Martha Clare Morris, ScD, from Rush University Medical Center, shows a plant-based diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35 percent to 50 percent, depending on how diligently it’s followed. 1 This new approach, formally called the Mediterranean Intervention Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, is a hybrid of the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). This diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and is also great for the heart. Evidence shows that foods that are good for the heart are good for the brain. Your brain is nourished by one of your body’s richest networks of blood vessels. Every heartbeat pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, where brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries.
The MIND diet is not the only research to support the fact that a Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of dementia. In the July 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), research was done on 447 men and women who were approximately 67 years in age. All patients had a series of dementia screens called neuropsychological test battery. No patients had evidence of dementia when they started the study. They found that memory was preserved and slightly improved in people on Mediterranean diets who used olive oil and ate nuts compared with people who simply lowered their dietary fat. In fact, in the non-Mediterranean diet group memory function actually declined by 17 percent. 2
The MIND diet consists of leafy greens, vegetables, berries, nuts, beans, and whole grains as daily dietary staples. It also suggests eating fish and chicken in a very limited way. It suggests not consuming red meat, butter, margarine, cheese, sweets, pastries, and fried or fast food. These foods to avoid can more than double your risk of cognitive decline. To keep it simple, think in terms of the nutrition rainbow and aim to eat seven to eight colors from plant-based sources each day.
Plant-based foods are not only low in calories, but rich in nutrients that are an integral part to maintaining brain health. They include antioxidants (special vitamins and minerals) that help fight against inflammation and free radical damage in your nervous system. Following a plant-based diet that is rich in nuts, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil (as well as coconut and avocado oil), and an abundance of fresh produce is beneficial to the brain.
The tasty recipes in this book are plant-based, dairy-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, can have severe effects on the gut as well as the brain. Many cases of neurological illness, known as gluten-sensitive idiopathic neuropathy, can be caused or exacerbated by gluten consumption. Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, claims eating foods with high glycemic indexes, which happen to be some of the most gluten-rich foods, increases the chances of developing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia. 3 Diets rich in gluten and dairy not only can contribute to celiac disease but can also cause neurological responses, which include migraines and “brain fog.”
Dr. Perlmutter’s research states the two main culprits contributing to Alzheimer’s are excessive sugar and gluten consumption. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. If you over-indulge on sugar and gluten, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of glucose and insulin that blunt its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities that can eventually cause permanent brain damage.
Furthermore, when your liver is busy processing fructose (which your liver turns into fat), it severely hampers its ability to make cholesterol, and essential building block of your brain that is crucial for optimal brain function. Mounting evidence supports the notion that significantly reducing fructose consumption is a very important step for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Preparing foods that are fresh, local, and organic are the ideal fuel foods for the brain. It is important to avoid processed foods because these foods are not digested well by the body. Cooking foods can be tricky because most foods that are cooked lose important digestive enzymes. For example, often people think that unsweetened jelly or concentrated apple juice is healthy to use, but in reality these are processed foods that are heated and reduced to a highly concentrated forms of sugar with all the enzymes and vitamins destroyed by the heating process. Plus, these processed foods are void of fiber! Processed foods turn into glucose that can easily turn into fat and create many health problems, including memory loss.
A study completed by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital showed that a diet high in glycotoxins called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are found in high concentration in well-done meat, is a risk factor in developing age-related dementia. 4 AGEs naturally form inside the body when proteins or fats combine with sugars (glycation). This affects the normal function of cells, making them more susceptible to damage and premature aging. AGEs are greater in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as meats (especially red meats), which are prone to AGE formation through cooking. In contrast, carbohydrate-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking. Sugary foods and highly processed and prepackaged products also are high in AGEs.
Cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling have the highest impact on the amount of AGEs consumed. The formation of new AGEs during cooking was prevented by the AGE inhibitory compound aminoguanidine and significantly reduced by cooking with moist heat, like steaming, using shorter cooking times, and cooking at lower temperatures. It’s best to eat a plant-based diet for the brain; however, if one does cook animal products, cook them with acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or vinegar reduces the AGEs.
The body naturally rids itself of harmful AGE compounds, but it has trouble eliminating them when too many are ingested through food. Basically, all the cells of the body cells are affected by the accumulation of AGEs. AGEs are linked to aging and also the development of worsening of many chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular, liver, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To reduce the damaging effects of AGEs on the brain:
- Limit grilling, broiling, frying, and microwaving foods. Substitute plant sources for protein instead of meat sources.
- Reduce the cooking temperature for baking to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
-Cut down on processed foods. Many prepared foods have been exposed to high cooking temperatures to lengthen their shelf life. This process causes a higher AGE content in the foods.
-Eat an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Both are excellent for the brain! Cooked or raw, they are naturally low in AGEs, and many contain compounds such as antioxidants that can decrease some of the damage done by AGEs. Vegetables and fruits contain dietary phytonutrients, which are found in the pigments of various colorful fruits and vegetables. One type of phytonutrient in particular—iridoids, which are found in deeply colored fruits such as blueberries—can lower AGEs in the body.
7 Brain Boosting Food Groups
These are the seven “brain-boosting food groups” that the recipes in this book focus on.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables and Cabbage
2. Leafy greens
3. Seeds and Nuts
4. Fruits, Grapes, and Berries
5. Beans, Legumes, and Whole Grains
6. Olive, Coconut, Macadamia, and Avocado Oils
7. Brain Spices
- “Dementia.” World Health Organization Website, March 2015. Accessed February 17, 2016. www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs362/en/#.VqrrtH90EBQ.email.
- “A New Case of Dementia Is Diagnosed Every 4 Seconds.” 10 Facts on Dementia, World Health Organization Website. Accessed February 17, 2016. who.int/features/factfiles/dementia/dementia_facts/en/index2.html.
- “New MIND Diet May Significantly Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease.” Rush University Medical Center Website, March 16, 2015. Accessed February 17, 2016. www.rush.edu/news/press-releases/new-mind-diet-may-significantly-protect-against-alzheimers-disease.
- Paula Cohen. “The MIND Diet: 10 Foods That Fight Alzheimer's (and 5 to Avoid).” CBS News Website, March 30, 2015. Accessed February 17, 2016. www.cbsnews.com/media/mind-diet-foods-avoid-alzheimers-boost-brain-health/.
Judi and Shari Zucker—the “Double Energy Twins”—attended the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and earned BAs in ergonomics, the study of human physiology, physical education, and nutrition. They became vegetarians at age 11 and wrote their first book, How to Survive Snack Attacks—Naturally! when they were just 16. Since then, they have written six best-selling health books. They lecture on living a healthy life, clean eating, and having more energy at hospitals, schools, and health and wellness programs nationwide. They are favorite guests on many local and national television shows, including The Today Show and Home & Family. Judi and Shari are both married and have five children between them. They reside in Santa Barbara, California.