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Experts agree that when it comes to preventing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, certain foods have superhero powers. The power lies in the food’s antioxidants. Antioxidants can slow cognitive decline and memory loss and can even help prevent Alzheimer’s.
The brain-saving power of antioxidants have been proven with in labs, with animals, and with humans.
In what I believe is one of the most thorough, useful, even vital books ever written, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss, author Jean Carper explains why antioxidants are so important:
Every time you breathe, you take in oxygen, which sparks formation of free-radical chemicals. These chemicals can run amok, ripping cell membranes, mutating DNA, blocking synapses, and disrupting neural communication networks. Such devastation is called “oxidative damage” or “molecular rust.” Your brain is a prime target of free radicals because it is fatty and burns so much oxygen. When oxidized, the fat in your brain literally becomes rancid, like spoiled meat. Such ongoing damage accelerates cognitive dysfunction and possibly Alzheimer’s.
That’s where molecular soldiers called antioxidants come in. They zip around the brain, capturing and snuffing out rampaging free radicals. These determined terminators, always on patrol, create a formidable and versatile defense system against brain degeneration. And where do you recruit antioxidants? From specific foods, mostly fruits and vegetables. Tests at Tufts University noted that blood antioxidant capacity surged after test subjects ate ten ounces of fresh spinach or eight ounces of strawberries.
Never underestimate the power of two or three carrots, broccoli florets, or spinach leaves. Among a group of older people, eating three servings of vegetables a day slowed the rate of memory decline by 40 percent, compared to eating less than one serving of vegetables a day, according to researchers at Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging. A Harvard study of aging women found particular cognitive-function-preserving antioxidant power in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and lettuce) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts). Columbia University researchers found that the best anti-Alzheimer’s foods are antioxidant heavy-hitters, including tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, dark and green leafy vegetables, fruits, salad dressings, nuts, and fish. New Yorkers over age sixty-five who ate the most of these foods, and the least high-fat dairy products, red meat, organ meat, and butter, were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. – Pages 29 – 30, 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss
On my self help blog, as well as here on my mental fitness blog, I always (strongly) encourage readers to add some sort of fruit and vegetable to each meal. Freshly squeezed juice, mixed fruit, a salad, steamed veggies – there are simply too many delicious ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet NOT to. For example, just yesterday I added strawberries to French Toast by cooking fresh, sliced strawberries with a little sugar and white cooking wine. When the strawberries were poured over the stuffed French toast, magic happened!
Toss fruit into cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt and on top of pancakes, ice cream, and even peanut butter sandwiches. Add vegetables to salads, pastas, sandwiches, dips, etc. Make it a challenge to find as many different ways to enjoy and “sneak in” fruits and vegetables each meal.
Below are, in order, 30 fruits and vegetables with the greatest antioxidant capacity (based on weight). These are from a 2010 analysis of 326 foods by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, remember, just because a fruit or veggie isn’t on the list, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have powerful antioxidants. Eat your favorites, just try to add some of the heavy-hitters into your diet as well.
- Black raspberries
- Golden Raisins
- Wild Blueberries
- Dried Plums (prunes)
- Black Currants
- Red Raspberries
- Cultivated Blueberries
- Raw Figs
- Red Cabbage
- Apples, with peel
- Leaf Lettuce, Red
- Pears, with peel
- Sweet Potatoes
- Broccoli Rabe and Florets
- Beet Greens
- Red Grapes
Finally, I 100 percent recommend 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss. You can buy a copy on Amazon (which is where I bought mine) for less than $15. Trust me, this book is worth a heck of a lot more than that!