Baycrest Fall BrainMatters Magazine

Baycrest Health Sciences & Baycrest Foundation Publications

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Smart eating for a healthy brain G rowing up, we all heard the old adage, "you are what you eat" – a phrase that can be understood as shorthand for "if you eat well, you will be well." Our diet directly affects how we feel and how healthy we are, not only now but in future years. In fact, there is growing evidence that our food choices today can even impact cognitive function later in life. The goal is to increase our cognitive reserve: "When people are implementing good exercise habits and are engaged in cognitively stimulating activities, a healthy diet helps to support the necessary processes that take place for good brain health," says Dr. Carol Greenwood, a senior scientist at Baycrest and a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. Researchers have found that obesity associated disorders, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and higher levels of inflammation, are dementia risk factors. You can reduce these risk factors through a proper diet. In general, eating a heart-healthy diet that is lower in saturated fats benefits both your body and your brain. No matter what our age, research shows we should increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish. "This diet helps us maintain a healthy body weight, increases blood flow to the brain and decreases inflammation, which has been implicated in many diseases, including dementia," says Dr. Greenwood. The World Dementia Council has put out an international call for dementia risk reduction practices to be embedded into public health policy. Recognized within this is the importance of engaging in cognitively stimulating activities and following a high quality diet. Eating for brain health is about overall diet and not about any one individual food. It's all about balance, moderation and variety. It isn't about avoiding fat. Instead, eat the type of fat found in fish and plants. It isn't about counting calories, but it's still important to make sure that you're not eating more than your body needs. "…there is growing evidence that our food choices today can even impact cognitive function later in life." BrainMatters FALL 2016 5 To help keep your brain healthy well into old age, here are a few more smart food tips: • Aim for daily servings of raw leafy greens, other vegetables, fruit and unsalted nuts. Dark-coloured vegetables and berries are particularly good for their natural antioxidant content. • Cereals and complex carbohydrates lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. Oats, because of the type of fiber they contain, are especially good. • Salmon, trout or sardines offer healthy fats, referred to as either fish oils or omega-3 fats. For more on this topic, visit:

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