The Most Important Nutrients for Dementia
Poor nutrition has been proven to increase the symptoms of dementia as well as the need for hospitalization or institutionalization. On the other hand, with proper nutrition, it is possible to ease the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (plus it’s a good way to prevent getting dementia altogether).
The Most Important Nutrients for Dementia:
Protein & Calories – Protein and calorie malnutrition in people with dementia is common. This is often because people with dementia tend to eat less because they either forget to eat or have a number of issues making eating more difficult. Getting sufficient protein and calories into a person with dementia is of the utmost importance to help their bodies combat the disease. To learn how to help people with dementia eat more, click here.
B Vitamins – The B vitamins, particularly B12, become more difficult to absorb as we age. With less B vitamins being absorbed into our bodies, we experience an increase in homocysteine levels, which is a neurotoxin that can damage the medial temporal lobe, the same area of the brain that shows rapid degeneration in people with Alzheimer’s. This increase in homocystieine levels has shown to cause the cognitive decline that occurs in people with Alzheimer’s, making the B vitamins one of the most important nutrients for dementia. By supplementing with B vitamins, and the foods that contain them, throughout your life, you reduce your chances of ever getting dementia, and if a person already has the disease, B vitamins are an important way to slow the symptoms. Great sources of B vitamins include dark leafy vegetable, nuts, whole grains, fish, shellfish, cheese, eggs and poultry.
Omega 3 – Omega 3 fatty acids, which can be found in salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish, along with flax seeds, are important for reducing dementia risk and symptoms. A study conducted by Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging revealed that eating fish once a week can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 60%. Anything that can prevent dementia can also help reduce symptoms in those who already have the disease.
Antioxidants – Vitamins A, C and E, along with additional antioxidants known as beta-caroteme, lipoic acid, glutathione, cysteine, anthocyanidins, melatonin and co-enzyme Q10, can help reduce the inflammatory response that is often seen in people with dementia. These nutrients are typically low in people with dementia, and that’s why they are one of the most important nutrients for dementia patients. For a healthy dose of antioxidants, eat at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, along with nuts and seeds.
Choline – Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that promotes healthy and efficient brain function, and it is often deficient in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Choline is one of the most important nutrients for dementia. Eating foods that are rich in choline can help a person regain acetylcholine, which is especially important as we age because our natural choline output declines with age. Good sources of choline include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, eggs, peanuts, black beans and kidney beans.
Nutritional Guidelines for Dementia:
- Provide a variety of healthy foods so they get a full range of vitamins and minerals.
- 6-10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily to provide a plethora of necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber to help with constipation. Go for a variety of raw and cooked produce.
- 2-3 servings each day of healthy proteins, such as lean poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
- 5-10 servings of whole grains. Reduce or eliminate white flour products. Grains provide fiber, nutrients and energy. Good choices include quinoa, brown rice, whole grain pasta and whole grain bread.
- 2-4 dairy products per day. For individuals whose weight needs to be monitored to ensure they aren’t losing too much, serve 2% or whole milk products. Yogurt and cheese are great options.
- Healthy fats like avocado, nuts and olive oils. Reduce or eliminate saturated fats like butter, shortening and fatty meats.
- Reduce or limit refined sugar. Good substitutions are stevia, which is a natural herb, agave nectar, honey or real maple syrup. Do not use artificial sweeteners like Equal or Sweet’N Low, which are toxic to the body and have been linked to chronic disease.
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt to enhance flavor.
- Reduce or eliminate processed foods, which typically contain too much salt, sugar and toxic chemicals, while providing no nutritional value.
- Serve cold-water fish like salmon or tuna twice a week for omega 3 fatty acids.
- Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. Water helps detoxify the body, and helps prevent constipation and dehydration.
We hope this list of the most important nutrients for dementia helps you as you plan meals either for yourself or your loved ones. It’s never too late to support our brains with nutrition. Learn more here: Nutrition for Brain Health.
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