Having a few more “senior moments” lately? Forgotten where your keys are a few too many times this month? Walk into a room and wonder why you came in? They happen to all of us, and we joke about them with our friends, but for those concerned about getting Alzheimer’s or dementia, these moments are no laughing matter. However, new studies on Alzheimer’s prevention are coming out with some interesting suggestions – one of which is to eat more fish.
UCLA resident radiologist, Dr. Cyrus Raji, lead research that found that people who eat fish regularly have bigger, stronger, healthier brains, which protects against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
How often do you need to eat fish to reap the benefits? Just once a week.
But there’s a catch to ordering the catch of the day: While any kind of fish is beneficial, the benefits tank when the fish is fried. Nix the fish sticks.
Cultures with more fish-heavy diets around the world, like the Japanese, have significantly fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease. But it’s not just the fish intake, it’s the entire lifestyle. Alzheimer’s has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – which can all be controlled through diet and exercise.
Here’s one of my favorite fish recipes. You’ll be amazed at how delicious salmon is with a hint of vanilla!
Garam Masala-crusted salmon with mint-yogurt sauce
Ingredients: salmon fillets with skin on, 1 whole vanilla bean, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), garam masala, Greek yogurt, mint, fresh greens, figs (optional).
- In a pan, heat EVOO with 1/2″ fresh vanilla bean, infusing the oil over medium heat.
- Coat a salmon filet in garam masala liberally, and place it in the pan, flesh-side down, with the oil and vanilla.
- Sear the salmon, then flip and finish cooking skin-side down.
- Pro-tip: You know the salmon is perfect when it begins oozing out white all over.
- Mix a tablespoon of Greek yogurt with fresh torn mint.
- Plate the salmon over fresh greens (with quartered figs if they’re in season), and top with a dollop of yogurt sauce.
If I told you I had a pill that had no downside whatsoever and it helped reduce age related memory loss, would you take it? Guess what, it’s exercise! Open your door and walk 15 minutes in one direction and 15 minutes back.
You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet and entertained visions of mounds of pasta drizzled in olive oil. Make that whole-grain pasta, and you’ve got yourself a deal. But the fresh fish, in-season produce, olive oil, wine, and yes, pasta, of the Mediterranean isn’t the whole story. Europeans walk. Everywhere.
It’s this balance of healthy whole foods (no Mediterranean mama would serve you out of a box or can) and exercise that is the real key to a healthy lifestyle – and long memory.
Let’s break down the diet first. Seafood and olive oil are everywhere and are both sources of Omega-3 fatty acids that help your brain function better. In Mediterranean cuisine, fresh green olive oil is often drizzled lightly over vine-ripened tomatoes from the morning market, with basil leaves picked minutes before from the terra cotta pot in the garden. The concentration is on eating whole fresh foods, and walking to and from that morning market!
- Try grilling white fish lightly brushed with oil and served with a squeeze of lemon on top of fresh asparagus, or serve on top of zucchini “pasta” with cherry tomatoes and pine nuts.
- Diets rich in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and chard also help memory function. Try Greek Spanikopita (cooked spinach wrapped in phyllo) or Turkish Cacik – a spinach yogurt dip with garlic, lemon juice, dill, parsley, mint and EVOO.
- And let’s not forget coffee. Greek coffee, Italian espresso, or French café latte – caffeine has been shown to slow memory loss (black tea works just as well). Unfiltered coffee can raise your HDL cholesterol though, so if that is a concern, stay away from espresso and French Press methods. Check with your doctor before adding caffeine to your diet if you have high blood pressure, IBS, or Crohn’s disease.
But most importantly – remember to walk every day. Remember that, and you’ll be amazed at how much more you remember for the rest of your life.