While it’s been proven that your diet is heavily correlated with risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, at this point little is known about the connection between diet and memory loss – specifically diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Despite the lack of concrete evidence at this point, here are some foods and diet tips based on early research that can help prevent memory loss as you age.
Limit Cholesterol & Saturated Fat
Diets high in cholesterol and saturated fats may speed up the formation of harmful plaque (called beta-amyloid) in the brain. This protein clusters cause a lot of damage in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
In a recent study done by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, women who ate the highest amounts of saturated fats performed worse on memory tests than women who ate fewer saturated fats.
The American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 5% to 6% of your daily calories from saturated fats. Here are some examples of high cholesterol, high saturated fat foods you’ll want to avoid or eat in moderation to help curb potential memory loss:
- Fatty cuts of meat (ex: rib eye steak)
Eat More Healthy Fats
Remember, not all fats are bad! Healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats are a crucial part of a balanced diet and may help preserve your memory. The Mediterranean diet (similar to the newly developed MIND Diet – which is specifically targeted to combat memory loss), has been linked to lower rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Components of the Mediterranean Diet that could positively impact brain health include:
- Eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. These foods help improve the health of blood vessels, reducing the risk for a memory-damaging stroke.
- The diet calls for eating fish at least 2x per week. Fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid proteins in the blood and better vascular health.
Best Foods To Prevent Memory Loss
Here are 6 foods researchers believe can help you prevent memory loss:
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and other fish are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin E and folate.
For example, one cup of raw spinach has 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E, and 1/2 a cup of cooked spinach has 25% of your daily intake.
Exactly how folate may protect the brain is unclear, but it may be by lowering levels of an amino acid known as homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may trigger the death of nerve cells in the brain, but folic acid helps break down homocysteine levels.
This creamy treat is also a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin E.
Research suggests that foods rich in vitamin E—including avocado, which is also high in the antioxidant powerhouse vitamin C—are associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Although both are high in fat, peanuts and peanut butter tend to be a source of healthy fats. And they are also packed with vitamin E.
Both foods may help keep the heart and brain healthy and functioning properly. Other good choices are almonds and hazelnuts.
Studies have shown that people who consume moderate amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol may be at reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
The latest research presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston found that blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries may help put the brakes on age-related cognitive decline by preserving the brain’s natural “housekeeper” mechanism, which wanes with age.
Other Lifestyle Tips To Prevent Memory Loss
Diet isn't the only way to preserve memory. If you want to keep your brain sharp as you get older, follow these recommendations:
- Quit smoking. One review of studies associated smoking with a significantly higher risk for Alzheimer's disease.
- Exercise three or more times a week.
- Work with your doctor to keep your weight in a healthy range for your height. A body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal.