Recent Canadian statistics demonstrated that in 2020, there were 597,000 individuals living with dementia. This number is projected to reach 955,900 by 2030. It is estimated that the annual cost of dementia on the Canadian healthcare system and the Canadian economy as a whole is 10.4 billion.
There has been more attention recently on anti-inflammatory eating patterns and their impact on cognitive health, particularly in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia. While diet alone cannot prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease, research suggests that certain dietary choices may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and support overall brain health.
There are a few dietary patterns that have been studied for their associated potential benefits for brain health and Alzheimer’s Disease including the Mediterranean Diet, the MIND Diet, the DASH diet, and an Anti-inflammatory Diet. Each of these eating patterns have key foundations in common:
- Including healthy fats, with a focus on omega 3 fatty acids: Focus on regularly including fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These foods are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which have been associated with lowered inflammation and a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Other food sources of healthy fats include olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, and seeds. On the other hand, aim to avoid trans fats in your eating pattern (primarily found in processed foods and fried foods), as these fats have been associated with increasing inflammation in the body and increasing risk of cognitive decline.
- Choosing whole grains and lower glycemic carbohydrates: Anti-inflammatory eating patterns often opt for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, and oats instead of refined grains. This is because whole grains contain more fiber and other nutrients that support gut health and reduce inflammation. These foods are also lower on the Glycemic Index, meaning these foods have a lower impact on blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels and insulin resistance have been linked to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. As an additional benefit, high-fibre whole grains are more filling and satiating than their refined counterparts, leading to more fullness and satisfaction at meals and support in maintaining a healthy weight.
- Adding COLOUR with fruits and veggies: I always describe fruits and veggies as your “multivitamin in food form”! The more colour and variety you can get on your plate, the more diversity you are feeding your body when it comes to antioxidants and phytochemicals with mega anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, berries (such as blueberries and strawberries) and dark leafy greens (such as spinach, kale, and collard greens) have been promoted for cognitive health due to their rich antioxidant profiles that are associated with improved cognitive function.
- Focusing on lean protein and plant-based protein: leaner animal proteins such as chicken, turkey, and fish contain lower amounts of saturated fat.Higher intakes of saturated fat have been linked to an increased risk of chronic health conditions. By choosing leaner proteins, you are ensuring that you get enough protein, which is essential for muscle and brain health, while limiting other pro-inflammatory compounds, like saturated fat. If you do choose to consume red meat, opt for leaner cuts, trim any visible fat, and enjoy it in moderation! Eating patterns studied for cognitive health also encourage the regular inclusion of plant-based proteins such as legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. Plant-based proteins are a “dynamic duo” of protein and fibre – both of which support overall health and may have positive effects on brain function.
- Experiment with nutrient “boosters”: Green, oolong, and black tea all contain molecules called catechins that can reduce inflammation. Spices such as turmeric, basil, rosemary, cayenne, cinnamon, and ginger contain inflammation-reducing polyphenols. Turmeric, in particular, contains curcumin, which has been studied for its potential to reduce inflammation in the brain.
Wondering how you can practically incorporate these concepts of anti-inflammatory eating into your daily eating patterns? Below are a few suggestions to try!
- Enjoy fatty fish like salmon, arctic char or steelhead trout twice a week. This marinade is delicious!
- Look for a sprouted grain bread for a tasty whole grain option. We love Silver Hills Bakery bread for their awesome protein and fibre content!
- Pick a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store and incorporate it into a recipe. I love this guide for finding seasonal produce.
- Plan a “meatless meal” one time this week for lunch or dinner.
- Add ginger and turmeric to your next stir fry for flavour and a nutrient boost.
If you’re looking for more individualized assessment and nutrition guidance, I would encourage you to book an appointment with our Preventous Dietitian team – we’re here to support you!