10 Foods That Can Fight Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease 2023

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Reviewed by Brittany, F., PhD

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what is the number one food that fights dementia?

As we get older, worries about dementia-or dementia-related diseases like Alzheimer’s-can start to influence our diet and lifestyle choices. As it turns out, diet can significantly impact our risks for these illnesses. Is there any one food that can help fight dementia? Read on to learn about 10 foods that can fight dementia, and what to avoid.

Alzheimer’s Vs. Dementia: What’s The Difference?

While Alzheimer’s and dementia have much in common when it comes to symptoms, there is an important difference. According to Mayo Clinic[1], Alzheimer’s is the name of an official neurological condition. Dementia, on the other hand, is a term for a cluster of specific symptoms and is not considered an official disease. Alzheimer’s disease, however, is considered a diagnosable type of dementia.

what is the number one food that fights dementia?

Risk Factors For Dementia & Alzheimer’s

According to the JAMA Neurology journal[2], Alzheimer’s and dementia both share many risk factors. Some of them can be improved while some are genetic and cannot be changed.

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Lack of education
  • Obesity
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Genetic markers
  • Ongoing smoking habit
  • Having type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Hearing loss
  • Race and ethnicity (Native Americans/Alaska Natives at higher risk)
  • Sex (Men are at higher risk)

What Is The One Food That Fights Dementia?

Not one single food fights dementia alone (or Alzheimer’s disease, for that matter). There is also not yet proven to be any specific food “better” at fighting dementia or Alzheimer’s than all other foods.

Fighting or reducing Alzheimer’s or dementia risk is more about picking the right types of foods with the right nutrition shown to help slash your risk, according to research. It also involves avoiding certain types of less healthy foods for dementia and Alzheimer’s while leading a generally healthy lifestyle. 

10 Foods That Can Fight Dementia And Alzeimer’s Disease

Leafy Greens

Foods like spinach, kale, arugula, dark green lettuce and more along these lines are shown to contain nutrients that may help slow cognitive decline, according to research[3]. Cognitive decline is the primary symptom associated with both Alzheimer’s and dementia.

These nutrients include lutein, nitrate, folate, and many different antioxidants. Eating one serving per day was shown in the study to have an impact on stopping cognitive decline.

Cruciferous Vegetables

The cruciferous or “Brassica” vegetable category can overlap with dark leafy greens: it also includes kale, arugula, broccoli, and cabbage. It also includes radishes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and many other vegetables.

These vegetables are notably high in an antioxidant called sulforaphane which, according to research[4], is shown to be “neuroprotective” and can reduce Alzheimer’s and dementia risk.

Berries

Like leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables, berries (especially dark-colored berries) are rich in antioxidants connected to slowing or preventing cognitive decline. The darker the berry the higher concentrations of anthocyanins it has, a class of antioxidants with potent neuroprotective capabilities.

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, mulberries, strawberries, bilberry, and black currants were mentioned as some of the most nutritious berries for fighting neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s and dementia) according to this study[5].

Nuts

Nuts are widely known as a healthy snack. It may surprise some to hear they’re great for brain health, including the lowering of dementia and Alzheimer’s risk.

Practically all types of nuts are healthy in this way, though nuts like almonds, peanuts, and especially walnuts are shown[6] to have a strong association with supporting brain and nervous system health.

Beans

Legume vegetables, especially beans, are widely touted as important ingredients for a healthy diet. But can they help with brain health or reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Studies suggest that specific beans have potent antioxidants that could help reduce those chances: including mung bean[7] and Adzuki bean[8], both having a strong connection to helping Alzheimer’s. That said, other legumes like lentils, navy beans, and more could support overall health to reduce your risk.

Fish

Most seafood makes for a healthy source of protein in the diet. But studies also show[9] specific types of seafood, especially oily fish, could help slow cognitive decline in people as they age, thereby cutting down on dementia and Alzheimer’s risk.

Eating more tuna, dark meat fish, and types of seafood naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids are the best ones to choose for reducing your risk.

Chicken And Poultry

One study[10] showed that a high intake of poultry-including chicken but also other domesticated fowl like turkey, duck, and geese-could reduce the risk of cognitive decline. It is most likely that this benefit increases even more if these animals are raised humanely and fed their natural diets.
Eggs, too, were shown by research[11] to have a positive association with supporting cognitive health with age.

Whole Grains

These plant-based foods are known to be incredible disease fighters: for heart disease, digestive disease, and stroke, not to mention Alzheimer’s or dementia. These can include whole wheat, quinoa, oats, bulgur, and more.

Eating plenty of whole grains was strongly associated with lowering the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s according to one study[12]. However, in one study[13], it was shown that gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s risk and progression in some people.

Olive Oil

It may be time to add extra olive oil to your dishes for an Italian cooking night.
According to one major review[14], extra virgin olive oil is shown in many studies to protect against both cognitive decline and stroke, most likely due to the unique antioxidants it contains. It also showed potential against heart disease, obesity, arthritis, cancer risk, and more.

Red Wine

Many people talk about how a glass of red wine each day could be good for you. This is because of an antioxidant found in wine grapes called resveratrol, which in studies is shown[15] to help protect neurons against the degeneration that causes Alzheimer’s or dementia.

On the other hand, excessive red wine consumption is shown to increase your risk according to research[16]. Be sure not to drink too much and stick to one glass per day at most.

Foods That Are Risk Factors For Dementia And Alzheimer

Red Meat

High consumption of animal-based proteins like pork, beef and lamb may up your risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia rather than slowing it down, studies show[17].

It was cited that with every increase of 25 grams of red meat eaten per day, one’s risk of the disease could likewise increase.

Fried Food And Fast Food

“Ultra-processed” foods, like fast food chain items and high trans fat fried food, could boost your chances of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to studies cited by CNN Health[18].

If your diet is high in fast food, red meat, and unhealthy fried foods, experts say that eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains (including the above 10 foods that can fight dementia) may help counter this risk.

Butter

A study by Science Daily[19] says that some foods containing butter may increase one’s risk of Alzheimer’s. But there’s a rub: Only artificial butter flavor appears to carry risks, such as that found in margarine, processed baked foods, popcorn, and more.

On the other hand, whole-sourced butter (especially butter made from grass-fed cows) is shown to help with inflammation in the body that could possibly lead to Alzheimer’s, according to WebMD[20].

Cheese

Cheese and dairy in general have long been tied to increased dementia or Alzheimer’s risk. One study[21] showed that cheese in particular was strongly connected to a rise in dementia among test subjects. However, some studies suggest[22] this may only be highly processed or unfermented cheeses and dairy products. Fermented dairy products and traditionally crafted cheeses were shown to actually have a protective effect against dementia and cognitive decline.

Pastries And Sweets

Any food that is high in processed sugars-like pastries, candies, and highly processed baked goods-will ultimately be no good for Alzheimer’s and dementia. High sugar intake ramps up inflammation in the body which in turn opens the door to these health problems.

One study[23] showed that high sugar intake (especially of lactose) was highly associated with increased Alzheimer’s and dementia risk in test subjects.

Conclusion

Eating the right foods consistently can help reduce your Alzheimer’s and dementia risk. Avoiding certain foods known to increase risk and supplementing or replacing them with risk-lowering healthy foods, is one way to lower your overall chance of getting these diseases that can set in when we age-or at any age.

That said, eating right isn’t a guarantee that you won’t get dementia or Alzheimer’s. Talk to your doctor about how to manage or ameliorate other risks associated with these conditions and be sure to focus on living a healthy lifestyle overall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can one specific food eliminate Alzheimer’s and dementia risk?

No. Eating several foods known to reduce risk can help impact your chances of developing these conditions, but they won’t completely eliminate your risk-and no single food can do that, either.

Can one specific food give you Alzheimer’s and dementia?

No. Eating one type of food associated with increased Alzheimer’s or dementia risk doesn’t mean you will develop the condition. But it can boost your chances of developing it at some point, and it’s not too late to adjust to a healthier diet.

Besides diet, how can I reduce Alzheimer’s and dementia risk?

According to Harvard Medical School[24], getting regular sleep and healthy exercise can also drop your chances of getting Alzheimer’s or dementia. Keeping up on healthy social connections, engaging in cognitive challenges (like crossword puzzles), or learning new skills may also help, though more research is needed to support this.

+ 24 sources

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  1. Mayo Clinic. (2022). Alzheimer’s and dementia: What’s the difference? [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-and-dementia-whats-the-difference/faq-20396861#:~:text=While%20dementia%20is%20a%20general,memory%2C%20thinking%20and%20reasoning%20skills. [Accessed 18 Jan. 2023].
  2. Nianogo, R.A., Rosenwohl-Mack, A., Yaffe, K., Carrasco, A., Hoffmann, C.M. and Barnes, D.E. (2022). Risk Factors Associated With Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias by Sex and Race and Ethnicity in the US. JAMA Neurology, [online] 79(6), p.584. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.0976.
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  4. Kim, J. (2021). Pre-Clinical Neuroprotective Evidences and Plausible Mechanisms of Sulforaphane in Alzheimer’s Disease. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, [online] 22(6), p.2929. doi:10.3390/ijms22062929.
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  13. Vasefi, M., Hudson, M. and Ghaboolian-Zare, E. (2019). Diet Associated with Inflammation and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease Reports, [online] 3(1), pp.299–309. doi:10.3233/adr-190152.
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