Foods and Spices to Bolster Brain Health

By Gary Small, MD and Gigi Vorgan Co-authors of The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program: Keep Your Brain Healthy for the Rest of Your Life

Posted on | By Gary Small, MD, Gigi Vorgan

Many experts believe that the oils used to cook the curried dishes help get the brain-protective ingredients into the brain’s neurons. Some people take curcumin supplements, but it is not clear whether the curcumin from supplements actually gets into the brain cells when it is not mixed in the oils used in the cooked Indian dishes. Some scientists argue that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties are general responses that occur throughout the body, triggered in the stomach when curcumin is initially absorbed, so direct brain penetration may not be necessary. UCLA researchers are currently studying this question and have recently begun a trial of a high-potency form of curcumin to determine if it will prevent Alzheimer’s disease and the accumulation of the brain plaques and tangles associated with the disease. Curcumin is available in capsule form at health food stores, or as turmeric in the spice section at the supermarket.

What we eat clearly affects our mental function and may be critical to maintaining brain health and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. As we continue to learn about how our diet can protect our brain health, keep in mind the following strategies for your Alzheimer’s prevention diet:

  • Emphasize complex carbohydrates and whole grains while avoiding processed foods and high-glycemic index carbohydrates.
  • Calories count when controlling body weight, but individualize your diet plan to meet your needs. Low carbohydrate diets offer quick results, but it’s usually best to combine a high-fiber carbohydrate and a protein for longer-lasting satiety.
  • Eating omega-3 fats from fish at least twice a week not only protect the brain from Alzheimer’s but also stabilize mood and fight off depression.
  • Antioxidant fruits and vegetables are great brain foods. You can eat them fresh or dried, or drink them in juice form.
  • Healthy proteins from fish, poultry, lean beef or soybeans fortify muscles, satisfy hunger, and provide essential amino acids.  

Article written by Gary Small, MD

Article written by Gigi Vorgan