You are what you eat, which might mean you could be a cup of coffee and a doughnut right about now.
Food is powerful. It affects your mood, your mind, your hormones, your sex life, or whether or not you feel like just losing it some days and running away with the mailman.
I’d be overstating the facts if I said that what you eat was the most important aspect of long-term health, topping that long list is coping with stress. But what you eat can help you cope with stress. Throw in a long walk in the sun and you’re heading in the right direction.
When it comes to eating think back to basics, remember those healthy foods? Fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans? Chuck out the processed foods that are more often than not loaded with sodium plus ingredients you’ve never heard of much less pronounce.
Diets high in simple sugars like cakes, candy, cookies, pastries plus those foods that are high in saturated fats can help clog up your arteries, reducing blood flow which in the long run can contribute to dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s.
Need a refresher on the back to basics foods? Here are my personal must haves everyday food picks.
Canola oil and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) – and only the type of EVOO that is certified 100% authentic (there is a huge fraud in the EVOO business – another story to come). Both of these oils are great for your heart and your brain. Both contain anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidants that are good for long-term health.
Action: Stick 2-3 tbsp (15-45 mL) per day. Frying, roasting and baking with canola, using EVOO over salads.
Fruit and Vegetables
You’d have to have been living under a rock not to know that these gems from Mother Nature are gifts of health to your body. Bottomline is: people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables live longer healthier lives.
Eat at least 7-10 servings every day. Before you start whining about the impossibility of that ever happening, here’s what a serving is:
½ cup (125 mL) fresh, frozen or canned vegetables or fruit – tennis ball size
½ cup (125 mL) 100% juice, vegetable or fruit – your Grandma’s juice glass
1 cup (250 mL) leafy raw vegetables (like spinach, arugula, etc.) – baseball size
½ cup (125 mL) cooked leafy vegetables (like spinach, kale, bok choy, etc.) – a small mug full
1 cup (250 mL) salad – a big generous handful
1 piece of medium-sized fruit – back to the tennis ball visual
¼ cup (60 mL) dried fruit – grab a handful, close your fist around it, that’s it
Still not convinced? Here’s how you can add these servings to your daily meals.
Handful of dried cranberries or a sliced banana on your cereal, and ½ cup (125 mL) 100% orange juice = 2 servings
Sliced large apple with peanut butter = 2-3 servings depending on the size of the apple
Handful of mixed salad greens you can buy in a bin = 1 serving
Hummus or salad dressing as a dip with 1 ½ cups (375 mL) cut-up veggies (you can buy them pre-cut) = 3 servings
Choice of vegetables – 1-1 ½ cups (375 mL) cut-up fresh or frozen = 2-3 servings
Total for the day = 10-12 servings
Deferring to Mother Nature again – she knew what she was doing when she packaged grains along with the germ and the bran – you want to eat the kind of grains that haven’t had all of the good stuff scraped or polished off. We figured we were smarter than years of evolution, so we refined them. Remove the hard-to-digest germ and bran, and it’s a Clown Day in your body – every organ starts acting goofy. Please go through your cupboards and toss out the white stuff.
Action: Embrace whole grain oats, barley, wheat, spelt, and any other grain with the word whole in front of it.
They make you gassy – get over it. As far as your brain is concerned, things have never been better. Loaded with fibre, nutrients as well as antioxidants, eating beans 3-7 times a week is a prescription for great long-term health.
Action: Add some rinsed and drained chickpeas to a salad, eat hummus for lunch or a snack, say hello to meatless chili.
People who eat nuts, any kind of nut, live longer; it’s a fact. They may even be thinner – recent research suggests that as well — BUT regular nut eaters don’t eat four handfuls at one sitting. Size matters, we always knew that.
Action: Eat ¼ cup (60 mL) a day every day. Your body will love you for it.
Salmon and other fatty fish like mackerel and anchovies contain omega-3 fatty acids – a known anti-inflammatory. Foods that reduce inflammation are heart- and brain-healthy. Make friends with fish.
Action: Eat fatty fish, canned, frozen or fresh, 2-3 times a week.
Any food that stains your clothes is good for you. Yup, that’s the bottom line, and as anyone who has accidently sat on a blueberry can tell you – they really do stain your clothes.
Action: Aim for fresh or frozen, 3-5 times a week; all you need is ½ cup (125 ml) per serving.
Another huge clothes stainer, pomegranate has similar properties to blueberries – both act like drain cleaners when it comes to brain gunk.
Action: Aim for ¼ cup (60 mL) every day.
These tiny seeds pack a punch for both you’re your gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract) and to your long term health. They are an anti-inflammatory food and can help reduce your cholesterol as well as keep you regular. Loaded with soluble fibre – that’s the cholesterol lowering type of fibre – this type of fibre also helps your body get rid of toxins.
Action: Eat 1-2 tbsp (30 mL) per day, sprinkled on your cereal or over yogurt.
Mairlyn Smith is a professional home economist, an award-winning cookbook author, key note speaker, food writer, and a regular guest expert on Cityline, the most popular daytime television show in Canada, and a regular on Breakfast TV in Toronto.
You can find her at www.mairlynsmith.com
Twitter – @MairlynSmith
This story first appeared on alzlive.com, a web site devoted to the unpaid family caregivers of those living with dementia.
Learn more about healthy foods and how to follow a healthy diet from the Alzheimer Society of Ontario.