Over many years, researchers have demonstrated the power of foods to help our hearts, trim our waistlines, tackle diabetes, ease chronic pain, and improve many other aspects of our lives. To this impressive list, we can now add protecting and enhancing our brains. Luckily, you do not need one diet to bring you vitamins, a second to help you avoid “bad” fats, a third to limit iron exposure, a fourth for cholesterol control, and so on. One set of simple steps covers all these and more.
Nutrition and health tips
First, let me be clear about one thing: Nutrition is powerful. If you had imagined that a diet change might trim a few points off your cholesterol or help you lose a pound or two, it is time to think more boldly. Foods can change your life.
We have seen so many people who were hoping to just get their diabetes under a bit better control. They never suspected they might be able to reduce or even stop their medicines or that the disease could essentially disappear. We have seen people who have been beaten up by one failed weight loss regimen after another, only to learn that the failure was in those poorly designed diets, not in them, and that a new focus on truly healthful eating gave them more control than they had imagined possible.
The same is true with brain health. A few years ago, I would never have guessed that foods could have much effect on brain function or that they could change your odds for staying mentally clear into ripe old age. That is exactly what we are now aiming to do.
This prescription is not just healthful. It is also wonderfully enjoyable and diverse. As a child, I ate from a typical American diet, which, in retrospect, was very limited. We ate roast beef, baked potatoes, and corn, night after night after night. Sometimes a pork chop took the place of the beef or peas took the place of corn. But we knew nothing of the culinary brilliance of other lands and never explored the range of foods that nature makes available to us. As I began to move away from a meat-heavy diet to a plant-based menu, it felt as if the doors to truly delicious foods were finally opening up.
It is best to avoid animal products completely. As you know by now, they contain saturated fat and cholesterol, increasing your cholesterol level and boosting your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and stroke. While some people are tempted to include small amounts of meat, dairy products, or eggs here and there, those occasional animal products can easily stall your progress if you are aiming to lose weight, control cholesterol, and improve your brain health.
Some people use fish as a source of “good” fats, but fish also delivers cholesterol and a fair amount of saturated fat, as well as a surprising load of toxic pollutants in many species. As a group, fish eaters do not do nearly as well as people who focus on plant foods when it comes to weight, diabetes risk, and other health indicators.