Most people are familiar with Alzheimer's Disease and the devastating effects it has on both individuals and their families. It’s relentless, robbing people of their memories, cognitive abilities, and ultimately their independence.
The journey from a healthy brain to one plagued by Alzheimer's is often a slow one, marked by irreversible damage. However, emerging research suggests that a whole food plant-based diet may be a powerful ally in the prevention of this devastating disease.
Understanding Alzheimer's Disease
Before diving into the role of whole food plant-based eating in Alzheimer's prevention, let’s take a look at the devastating stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Mild Alzheimer's Disease: Initial diagnosis often reveals loss of memory, cognitive difficulties, changes in personality, and daily task challenges. Patients may begin asking repetitive questions, and previously simple tasks like managing their finances become difficult.
- Moderate Alzheimer's Disease: As the disease progresses, patients experience an increase in confusion and memory loss and struggle to cope in unfamiliar situations. They also begin to have difficulty with language, reasoning, recognizing their loved ones, and handling complex tasks.
- Severe Alzheimer's Disease: In the final stage, brain tissue shrinks significantly, and individuals become entirely dependent on full time care. Patients lose their ability to communicate and often become bedridden until they ultimately pass away.
Alzheimer's and the brain
Age-related cognitive decline gradually wreaks havoc on the brain through accumulations of amyloid plaques and tau tangles. The neural connections essential for memory and cognitive function become disrupted and, over time, neurons wither away completely. Regions of the brain then begin shrinking, eventually leading to complete cognitive decline.
Despite advances in research over the years, the exact cause of Alzheimer's remains unknown. But, we do know several factors that can contribute to a diagnosis (also dementia risk).
- Genetics: Certain genes, like APOE-e4 allele, can increase the risk of Alzheimer's. APOE-e4 specifically can contribute to the late onset form of Alzheimer’s.
- Age-Related Changes: Like most degenerative conditions, the natural aging process can also contribute to the development of Alzheimer's. Over time neurofibrillary tangles develop and amyloid plaque builds up.
- Environmental Factors: Although the impact of environmental factors on the potential for Alzheimer’s is still being researched, there are some indications that exposure to toxins and conditions can impact one’s risk.
- Comorbid Conditions: Preexisting health conditions like heart disease or diabetes can also potentially increase one’s risk of developing Alzheimer's.
- Inflammation and Immune Response: Chronic inflammation and abnormal immune responses may also contribute to the risk of the disease.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Past head injuries, like those obtained through full contact sports, have been linked to a higher Alzheimer's risk later in life.
- Sleep (or lack thereof): As if there weren’t already a host of negative effects of not getting a good night’s rest, poor sleep quality may also be related to Alzheimer's risk. Apnea and other sleep disorders may also pose a risk.
- Lifestyle: Diet, exercise, weight loss, and cognitive engagement may have a positive influence on Alzheimer's risk.
What is the link between Alzheimer’s and lifestyle?
Even though Alzheimer’s is still largely a mystery, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), good nutrition, including eating plant-based foods, can help prevent Alzheimer’s as well as other forms of dementia.
In fact, ongoing research like the MIND diet suggests that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat plant-based protein can help protect the brain.
Key findings included:
Plan foods (like plant-based diets or Vegetarian Diets) does have a positive effect: A whole food plant-based diet is rich in antioxidants, fibers, and healthy fats. These healthy nutrients have ties to reduced inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are closely connected to Alzheimer's disease.
Some nutrients are more effective than others: Nutrients found in plant-based foods (leafy vegetables) like Vitamins E and C, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids play vital roles in brain health.
- Don’t take our word for it: Various epidemiological studies and clinical trials reviewed for the study have shown promising signs of improvement in cognitive function and the reduction of Alzheimer's risk through plant-based eating.
This research is a valuable weapon in the ongoing battle against Alzheimer's. Offering hope that we can prevent this disease through simple dietary changes, like embracing a whole food plant-based lifestyle. Focusing on whole, antioxidant-rich foods can be a powerful tool in protecting your brain’s health.
Optimizing brain health
What should we eat to ensure a healthy brain?
There are several important brain nutrients found in whole foods that have a positive impact on brain function and may even contribute to preserving your cognitive health.
Here are just some of the foods as part of a healthy diet that make your brain happy.
Berries: Berries are packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale and other leafy greens contain vitamin K, lutein, and folate, all nutrients that may support brain function and cognitive health.
Nuts and Seeds: Full of healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, seeds and nuts may be key in protecting the brain over time.
Whole Grains: Whole grains are great for brain health, combining glucose, fiber and other essential nutrients.
Turmeric: Turmeric contains an active compound called Curcumin, which has been linked to potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Broccoli: Rich in antioxidants and vitamin K, broccoli can lead the charge to increased brain function and cognitive preservation.
Pumpkin Seeds: Pumpkin seeds have powerful antioxidants plus magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper, all of which are brain health boosters.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate isn’t just delicious, it contains flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants, all great ingredients for enhancing memory, mood, and other cognitive functions.
Coffee and Green Tea: Caffeine along with the antioxidants found in both coffee and green tea may boost brain function and alertness.
Citrus Fruits: Vitamin C in oranges and other citrus fruits is key in preventing mental decline.
- Avocados: A great source of monounsaturated fats, avocados can support blood flow to the brain.
There’s still so much that we don’t know about Alzheimer’s, but embracing a whole food plant-based lifestyle offers hope in preventing Alzheimer's disease.
A healthy brain nutrient plays a pivotal role in preserving cognitive health.
At Whole Harvest, we offer a wide variety of whole food plant-based recipes (that's with a lot of green vegetables) and meals to choose from, delivered right to your door.
All of our meals are shipped fresh in industry-leading vacuum-sealed containers, ensuring you receive the highest quality and healthiest food possible.
Whole Harvest is the leader in innovation and creativity in oil-free, whole food plant-based cooking. We provide our members with incredible variety throughout the week.
Best of all, everything is ready to eat! We’re passionate about making it easier for people to enjoy the benefits of WFPB diet with absolutely no oil involved.
Whole Harvest is based out of North Kansas City, Missouri and Denver, Colorado, and we ship to almost everywhere in the U.S. for your convenience.