Despite what news headlines or product labels might say, there are no “magic” foods for your brain or for your memory and thinking. But some foods are better for the brain than others because they contain an abundance of vitamins, nutrients and other health-promoting elements.
Eat more of these:
Fruits contain many minerals and vitamins that support body and brain health. They also contain fiber, which aids digestion and gut health. And they are full of antioxidants, which clear out harmful substances that can damage cells and potentially lead to disease, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. All fruits are good, but research shows that berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and others, may be especially beneficial because they are high in antioxidants.
Like fruits, vegetables are packed with health-promoting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Vegetables support a healthy brain and gut. And a healthy gut, in turn, supports a healthy brain. Green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, spinach and bok choy, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, are especially beneficial. This is because they have lots of antioxidants. Other veggies full of antioxidants include onions and hot peppers and herbs such as parsley.
Some think fat is unhealthy. And it’s true that some types of fats aren’t as good for us. But others are good — and necessary — for heart, brain and body health. Good fats boost good cholesterol (HDL) and decrease bad cholesterol (LDL). They also support healthy blood pressure and blood vessels and may even reduce risk of stroke, memory and thinking changes, or brain disease, such as Alzheimer’s.
Here are a more general tips for seniors who are looking to maintain a healthy diet:
Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods. As we age, our bodies may become less able to absorb certain nutrients, so it's important to eat a wide range of foods to ensure that you're getting all of the nutrients you need.
Focus on getting enough protein. Protein is an important nutrient for maintaining muscle mass and strength, which can decline with age. Good sources of protein include eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and lentils.
Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a common problem among seniors, so it's important to make sure you're getting enough fluids. Aim for at least 8-10 cups of water per day.
Limit your intake of added sugars and sodium. Too much added sugar and sodium can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Choose foods that are low in these ingredients and season your food with herbs and spices instead of salt.
In general, it's important for seniors to eat a balanced and nutritious diet that supports their overall health and well-being. Consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian if you have specific questions or concerns about your dietary needs.
For more tips on eating well you can download the comprehensive guide "Brain Food: Eating Well if You Have Parkinson’s (or Worry You Might Get It)" by Rachel Dolhun, MD & Erin Presant, DO from the Michael J. Fox Foundation.