Anitoxidant-rich diet is brain food for seniors


Healthy eating after 50

Eat a variety of colors and types of vegetables and fruits.

Eat at least half of all grains as whole grains.

Limit solid fats and foods with added sugars.

Limit foods with saturated fat and trans fats.

Eat seafood twice a week.

Source: National Institute on Aging

Brain Fitness. Tuesdays, Feb. 4-March 4, and Friday, March 7. 10-11:30 a.m. East Cobb Senior Center. Free to Cobb County residents age 55 and older. Registration required; limited to 35. A healthy mind is essential to staying independent, involved and enjoying life to the fullest at any age. This series of classes focuses on keeping your mind active, focused and sharp. Topics will include "Memory and Aging — What's Normal/What's Not"; "How Stress Affects Your Brain"; "Brain Food — Foods to Improve Your Cognitive Function" and more. To register or for more information, call 770-509-4900.

Brain Fitness. Tuesdays, Feb. 4-March 4, and Friday, March 7. 10-11:30 a.m. East Cobb Senior Center. Free to Cobb County residents age 55 and older. Registration required; limited to 35. A healthy mind is essential to staying independent, involved and enjoying life to the fullest at any age. This series of classes focuses on keeping your mind active, focused and sharp. Topics will include "Memory and Aging — What's Normal/What's Not"; "How Stress Affects Your Brain"; "Brain Food — Foods to Improve Your Cognitive Function" and more. To register or for more information, call 770-509-4900.

When Caitlin Rogers plans menus for Sunrise Senior Living, the national director of dining and nutrition services is careful to build recipes around foods rich in antioxidants.

These might include dark leafy greens, berries, fish, olive oil and legumes, all of which research shows may promote brain health. She also knows meals have to pass the taste test for some 26,000 residents in the assisted living communities.

“Seniors and their families are very interested in having a brain-healthy diet, but they are also interested in having satisfying and tasty menu choices,” she said.

A recent study on vitamin E supplements and their effectiveness in delaying some early cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients has placed a spotlight on nutrition and its complicated relationship with brain health.

The best nutrition for any senior concerned about brain health is a balanced and varied diet full of antioxidant-rich foods, Rogers said.

“While research has not uncovered any specific foods that prevent general age-related memory loss, there is some evidence to show that certain foods may help slow down the process,” she said.

“Antioxidant-rich foods like dark leafy greens, bright orange vegetables, berries, fish, olive oil, legumes and nuts contain potent levels of antioxidants and make for sound, healthy dietary choices,” Rogers said. “It may also be beneficial to avoid certain inflammatory foods like saturated fats and excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids or sugar.”

While supplements should be administered under a physician’s care, seniors can maximize the amount of vitamin E in their diets through food choices such as fortified cereals and whole grains, dark green vegetables, eggs, lean meat and poultry, nuts and olive oil, Rogers said.

Locally, Cobb County Senior Services will try to simplify nutrition information during a series of Brain Fitness classes offered to seniors in February.

Kerri Groen, director of nursing and wellness for Assisted Choice, will teach a session called “Foods to Improve Your Cognitive Function” from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 18 at the East Cobb Senior Center. It’s only available to those age 55 and older who sign up for the entire Brain Fitness series, which begins Feb. 4.

“A lot of people are curious (about nutrition), but they just don’t know that much about it. There’s so much conflicting information out there,” Groen said.

Groen plans to talk about foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as specific fruits and vegetables and their nutritional and health benefits. She wants emphasize different ways to get the same nutrients; choices that are important for those on limited incomes.

“Many people can’t afford $7 a pound for salmon. It’s nice to have alternatives,” Groen said.

Instead of salmon, try mackerel, herring or sardines packed in olive oil. Vegetarian-fed chicken eggs are also an excellent substitute source of omega-3, Groen said. And eating an ounce of nuts or seeds daily is beneficial for healthy oils and vitamin E.

Blueberries, well-known for antioxidant effects, can be pricey and hard to find this time of year. Instead of fresh, stock up on frozen or dried berries.

Spinach, rich in vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron, can be enjoyed raw in salads, steamed as a side dish or stir-fried, Groen said.

Citrus fruits like oranges, orange juice, tangerines, limes and lemons are high in vitamin C and are good for blood vessel function, she said.

Even spices should be considered. Turmeric, for example, has anti-inflammatory effects, Groen said.