How well your brain is going once you hit later age is the result of three main things – your genes, your cognitive reserve and the combined effect of any little bits of damage done to it over the years. There’s not much you can do about what’s happened before but you can certainly keep boosting your cognitive reserve (the amount of brain power you have available from the learning and brain work you do) by keeping your brain active with reading, learning new things, doing puzzles and staying socially involved.
And perhaps most importantly, you can certainly eat foods that will help reduce the impact of the damage everyday wear and tear wreaks on brain cells, possibly even reverse some of what’s already happened.
That’s as easy as making sure you get as many differently coloured foods at every opportunity to benefit from the antioxidants and micronutrients they contain.
No matter what’s happened up till now, you can support your brain nutritionally to boost your cognitive capacity and that means providing the particular nutrients and fuel that it needs.
You can read more on this in chapter 2 of my book but in summary:
Your brain relies on glucose as fuel except in fairly unusual circumstances (check the post about coconut oil and ketosis here for more detail) and that comes from carbohydrate foods and some stores, but that’s a limited supply. Its protein, sourced from your muscles, that backs up glucose supplies to your brain when they fall short. Ketosis gets lots of press lately but protein provides a much more important back up fuel supply. You need to be sure to eat protein foods as well as some carbohydrates and get exercise to be sure you keep your fuel reserves there for your brain to use.
All the cognitive reserve and brain puzzles in the world will be of little benefit if you can’t supply the fuel your brain needs for its everyday tasks and it will certainly impact anyone living with dementia.
You can read more in the book, but special brain nutrients include iron, zinc, selenium and the B vitamins – especially B12, folate, niacin and thiamine. Making sure you eat foods containing these – based on meats, eggs, seafood, grains, nuts, dairy and a wide variety of vegetables/fruits – is important.
You’ll also read about omega 3 fatty acids and cholesterol. These are addressed in other posts here too.