From Depression to Dementia: Foods That Improve Your Mental Health After 40
The older you get, the more you start to worry about age-associated diseases. Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect millions of Americans, leaving many in search of ways to prevent poor health in their 40s and beyond.
It turns out your diet could improve your mental health and slow cognitive decline — but what you should eat changes as you age. Here are the foods you should be eating to save your brain and prolong your life.
If you’ve ever eaten large quantities of chocolate to ward off emotional distress, you’ve had the right idea. Chemically, chocolate really does have the power to enhance your mood, thanks to endorphins.
But that’s not all chocolate’s good for — especially dark chocolate. Its antioxidant properties can diminish the oxidative stress that often leads to cognitive decline. Eat a small amount every day to keep your memory sharp and your brain in good condition.
Are grain-based foods like bread and rice really as bad for you as everyone says? Not if you’re eating pure whole grains — which are more nutritious than the varieties you usually find in breakfast cereals and white breads. These grains are good for digestion and disease prevention, even in your brain.
People who eat whole grains are healthier and less likely to die from disease than those who don’t. Brown rice is just one of many foods that, if eaten regularly, could help you live longer.
Your mom used to remind you to eat your fruits and vegetables so you’d grow up healthy. Don’t break that habit just because you’re getting older. Fruits, especially those eaten with their skin intact, provide fiber and other vitamins and minerals essential for healthy aging.
Grapes can improve and prevent a number of chronic conditions, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Like other fruits, their antioxidant properties can boost your mood and decrease your dementia risk.
Sweet potatoes provide a variety of vitamins and minerals that could have anti-inflammatory benefits. Eating large quantities of potatoes won’t prevent or cure the world’s deadliest diseases, but they could help prevent symptoms you don’t want your body to have to endure in older age.
Some researchers believe that inflammation and dementia could share an important connection. Reducing inflammation overall could reduce your risk for a number of diseases and keep your brain healthy.
Adding a little spinach to your diet may be one of the best things you can do to protect your brain. If you have high blood pressure, the plant’s high potassium content could actually save you from dementia.
One type of dementia, called vascular dementia, results from inadequate blood supply to certain parts of your brain. High blood pressure actually increases your risk of this disease, especially if it isn’t well maintained for long periods of time.
People often lump nuts in with other high-calorie, high-fat snack foods and warn against consuming them regularly. However, you shouldn’t avoid them completely if you want to protect your brain.
Many nuts, high in omega-3 fatty acids, decrease your risk of developing depression. Poor mental health and dementia share a possible link, so if you’re eating to fend off the devastating brain disease, add some walnuts or cashews to your shopping list ASAP.
Omega-3 fatty acids, also present in substantial amounts in tuna and other fish, can also slow cognitive decline as you get older. The sharper your mind, the less likely you are to succumb to certain diseases.
In addition to plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, tuna proves to be an excellent source of lean protein. Protein is an essential component of healthy aging, especially for those making it a point to exercise regularly to maintain optimal health.
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