If you’re worried about memory impairment in an aging loved one, here’s a tip that may sound familiar: make sure they eat their veggies.
Although there’s no single must-have food to prevent age-related memory impairment, there are some important dietary tips that can help seniors maintain a healthy memory. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a brain-healthy diet is much like a heart-healthy diet: it “reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol,” as well as being high in like B vitamins, protein, omega-3s, and antioxidants.
Practical Tips for Helping the Memory Impaired Eat Well
Follow these guidelines from Heather Schwartz to make sure your loved one is stocking foods he or she likes, and also getting enough of the foods that he or she needs:
- Work together with your loved one to make a grocery shopping list
- Leave fresh fruits and veggies on the table to remind them what foods are available
- Consider buying individual/small serving sizes to simplify meal preparation and minimize waste
- If food prep is difficult, buy pre-cut fruits and veggies
- Fresh fish and meats expire quickly, so frozen meats or frozen wild caught salmon might be a better bet
- If your loved one has trouble chewing or swallowing, consider ground meats, softer canned fruits, etc.
- Use glass or clear plastic storage containers with dates written on the side so that you can see exactly what you have and if it’s still safe to eat. If leftovers are in an opaque container, they are often forgotten and can sit in the fridge for too long, posing a potential health risk. Also, you might be buying the same foods over and over, thinking that you are out stock, when really they are stored inside another container–this can be so frustrating, and expensive to boot.
Memory Boosting Shopping List for Seniors
Unless you’re dealing with food allergies or intolerances, it’s best to get as many vitamins as possible from food, because the body absorbs them better. Some of the vitamins and minerals linked to improved memory include vitamins B6, B12, D, C, and E; folate; biotin; coQ10; omega-3 fatty acids; and antioxidants, particularly in the flavonoid family, see Top 5 Dementia Fighting Vitamins.
In order to get enough of these brain boosters, you’ll want to make sure your loved one stocks up on these foods:
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale, and turnip greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, have been strongly linked with lower levels of cognitive decline in older age, according to a study in the Annals of Neurology.
- Salmon and other cold-water fish such as halibut, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other omega-3 sources include beans, some nuts, flax seeds, and healthy oils like canola oil.
- Berries and dark-skinned fruits are rich in antioxidants. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, some of the fruits that pack the most punch are blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, and cherries.
- Coffee and chocolate are surprisingly good for you. Recent studies have shown that caffeine and coffee can be used as therapeutics against Alzheimer’s disease. The caffeine and antioxidants in these two tasty treats may help ward off age-related memory impairment, along with cinnamon, olive oil, and curry.
What About Vitamin Supplements?
“Our bodies were not designed to be able to absorb, digest and metabolize large amounts of single vitamins,” says Heather Schwartz. “Our bodies were designed to extract vitamins in the correct amounts from the foods we eat. The foundation of the issue is to eat a well-balanced diet instead of focusing on single vitamins. A well-balanced diet will help improve and/or preserve your whole body’s health.” However, if your loved one isn’t getting enough nutrition through their regular diet, your physician may recommend taking supplements.
We want to hear your suggestions, too—if you’ve got tips for caregivers doing the grocery shopping, let us know in the comments!