By Lauren E., Assistant Director and Registered Dietitian, Roseville
“I usually play dumb, but the older I get, the less I have to pretend!” I heard a grandmother say this when she was late for family photos at a wedding I attended recently. Do you ever wonder if you might be feeling the same way in the future? The good news is, you can choose a lifestyle for yourself to give your brain the best conditions for healthy aging.
This is a normal event in our bodies. An injury, or negative event such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or high blood lipids triggers the immune system to send cells to the area of the injury. Our immune system and central nervous system (CNS) (brain and spinal cord) are connected, so when the immune system creates an inflammatory response, the CNS may respond to the inflammation with fever, appetite loss, reduced mobility, and reduced mental efficiency. As we age, our bodies are less able to shut down inflammation and we may experience inflammation and the brain’s adaptive response, for longer periods of time. This may contribute to other diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, frailty, and general functional decline (1,6).
As you can see, our brain health is connected to the rest of our body’s health. This means that many of the choices that improve and maintain our health overall may play an important role in our brain health. Some key factors to focus on include physical activity, healthy weight maintenance, and nutrition.
Physical activity is associated with reduced inflammation, increased brain matter and improved cognitive function. This can be as simple as briskly walking for 30 minutes most days of the week. Or trying out a few Get Up and Move exercises each week.
Weight loss and healthy weight maintenance
Research suggests that losing weight on a nutrient balanced meal replacement plan, like your Livea plan, can also help reduce inflammation (2). Losing weight and maintaining that healthy weight is associated with decreased inflammation throughout the body and increased brain activity in regions that involve memory (6).
Your Fresh and Lean Meal can include a lot of foods that support a reduced inflammatory response. Choosing foods high in flavonoids, like vegetables and fruit, may reduce the size of the inflammatory response in the body. Vegetables and other plant foods contain phytonutrients; these phytonutrients give plants their bright colors, but also provide important health benefits, such as combating inflammation. Different colors in plants usually indicate that they contain different kinds of phytonutrients; this is why it is important to eat a variety of vegetables. Be sure to include dark green vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli), and red and orange vegetables (bell peppers, tomatoes, kabocha squash) in your regular Fresh and Lean routine (4,6).
Omega-3s, specifically the kind of omega-3s that come from cold water fatty fish or fish oil supplements are associated with reduced risk of inflammation, reduced risk of cognitive decline, improved cognition and increased brain tissue volume in some areas of the brain. While these kinds of omega-3s only make up about 4% of the fat cells in our blood, they make up 14-30% of the tissues in our brains (4). Be sure to include fatty fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines in your Fresh and Lean meals(3,5). Your Livea consultant can help with recipes and preparation tips if cooking fish feels a little murky for you.
Research is still determining which foods are most helpful to reduce inflammation. Some other foods that may also contribute to improvements in inflammation include turmeric, ginger, green tea, and 70% cocoa dark chocolate, but most research on these foods has been done on animals and labs, so more research is needed to give the best recommendations for how much would benefit humans (4,6). An overall healthy diet is key because different foods have different nutrients that all add up to a healthier you.
Aging is inevitable, and choices that we make throughout our lives can set us up for a healthier brain in our later years. Working towards moderate amounts of movement, maintaining a healthy weight, and choosing a variety of healthy foods can all add up to reduce inflammation in your body and central nervous system. No matter how old you are, you can take steps to keep your body and brain in shape!
Davis, Lisa M et al. “Efficacy of a meal replacement diet plan compared to a food-based diet plan after a period of weight loss and weight maintenance: a randomized controlled trial.” Nutrition journal vol. 9 11. 11 Mar. 2010, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-9-11