Plant-Based Lifestyles: Brain Health

Prevent or slow down the progression of dementia/age-related cognitive decline.

Dementia:

Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive abilities (such as memory, language, and decision-making) that is severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. It is not a specific disease but rather a group of symptoms that are caused by various underlying conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, and others.

Dementia is progressive, meaning that the symptoms typically worsen over time, and it can eventually lead to a loss of independence and a need for full-time care.

Alzheimer’s:

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia and is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the brain and leads to a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of cases.

The hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits, including beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles, in the brain. These deposits interfere with communication between brain cells, leading to their dysfunction and eventual death.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease typically develop slowly and worsen over time, and they can include memory loss, confusion, difficulty with language, disorientation, mood and personality changes, and loss of motivation and initiative.

While there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, there are treatments and interventions that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life for people with the condition.

Plant-based diets have many benefits to brain health.

There are several physiological mechanisms through which a diet primarily consisting of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and other plant-based proteins can improve brain health.

  1. ANTIOXIDANTS

Plant-based diets are typically rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and A, which can protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress can damage brain cells and lead to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

  1. HEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME

Plant-based diets are high in fibre which promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Research suggests that a healthy gut microbiome can positively impact brain function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

  1. REDUCED RISK OF CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

Plant-based diets are typically low in saturated and trans fats, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease can restrict blood flow to the brain, leading to cognitive impairment and an increased risk of stroke. By reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, a plant-based diet can improve brain health.

  1. MICRONUTRIENTS THAT IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION

Plant-based diets are rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, and magnesium, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline.

In summary, a plant-based diet can improve brain health through its high content of antioxidants, fibre, and nutrients, its low content of saturated and trans fats, and its potential to promote a healthy gut microbiome.

 

Specific plant-based foods are good for the brain and the prevention of Alzehiemer’s.

While there is no one specific plant food that can prevent dementia, research suggests that incorporating a variety of plant-based foods into the diet can have a positive impact on brain health and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

EXAMPLES of some plant-based foods that have been linked to improved brain health:

  1. Leafy green vegetables: Spinach, kale, collard greens, and other leafy green vegetables are rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, and antioxidants, which have been shown to improve cognitive function and potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. Berries: Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and other berries are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. ½ cup of berries per day is an easy prescription to incorporate in daily diets!
  3. Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and other nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E, and other nutrients that may promote brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  4. Whole grains: Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and quinoa are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which may help protect the brain from cognitive decline.
  5. Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are high in fiber, protein, and nutrients such as folate and magnesium, which have been linked to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of dementia.

Beans and Legumes are rich in:

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Fibre (heart-protective)
  • Folate (heart protective)
  • Potassium

And are naturally low in heart-damaging nutrients:

  • Saturated fat
  • Sodium / salt
  • Free of cholesterol, and as such are heart protective.

Daily recommendation: 2-3 servings LEGUMES per day

Spotlight on Soya.

Soy has been suggested as a potential dietary factor in the prevention of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, due to its high content of isoflavones. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.

Research suggests that soy isoflavones may have a protective effect on the brain by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and reducing oxidative stress. Additionally, isoflavones may help prevent the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques, which, as mentioned above, are a hallmark feature of Alzheimer’s disease.

Several observational studies have reported a link between soy consumption and improved cognitive function in older adults. For example, a study of over 1,800 elderly Japanese participants found that higher intake of soy products was associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.

However, more research is needed to confirm and establish the role of soy in the prevention of dementia.

It is worth noting that soy products, particularly those that are minimally processed, can be a healthy source of protein and nutrients as part of a balanced diet.
However, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as thyroid problems, should consult with their healthcare provider before consuming large amounts of soy products.

NOTE: Small amounts of soy have been found to have no negative impact on thyroid function.

Incorporating a variety of these plant-based foods into the diet can have a positive impact on brain health and potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

Soya Life Products: An easy solution in a plant-based eating plan.

Tip: The Soya Life Porridge and Meal Replacement Drink are excellent choices for the elderly, due to their incredibly nutritious composition, and their ease of preparation and use!

Sample pant-based eating plan:  To prevent / slow down progression of dementia

EAT MORE: EAT FEWER: EAT EVEN FEWER
Unprocessed plant foodsProcessed plant foods (watch out for sodium/salt)sUltra-processed plant foods
Nothing bad added, nothing
good taken away
Unprocessed, lean/low fat animal foodsProcessed animal foods
Labels:
These foods have MORE of the protective nutrients and FEWER
of the disease-promoting factors
SALT: ≤100mg/100g
SUGAR: ≤5g/serving
FAT: ≤5g/serving

Portions per dayPortions per dayPer week
Legumes and beans 2Nuts and seedsAnimal Proteins 2 2
Wholegrains 3Cruciferous vegetablesDairy 17
Green vegetables 1Other vegetables Fats 37
Berries 1Other fruits Sugars 0-17
Spices 1Flaxseed

Protein foods

Legumes and beans Nuts and Seeds:
2 servings/day
Soybeans, split peas, chickpeas, red kidney beans, butter beans cannellini beans, lentils
1 serving/day
Almonds, brazils, cashews, chia seeds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
Examples Serving sizeExamples Serving size
Hummus / bean dip (home-made, salt-free)60gSALT-FREE nuts/seeds30g
Cooked/canned beans*, split peas, lentils⅓ cup (130g)Nut/ seed butters2 Tbs
Tofu / tempeh⅓ (130g)
Fresh peas / sprouted lentils⅓ cup (130g)
Edamame (soybeans in pods)–buy frozen150g

Animal Proteins Dairy
1-2 servings twice/week
Optional: Choose lean.
Mostly choose white meat chicken & fish
Avoid processed meats / chicken / fish
Optional: Choose low fat options
ExamplesServing SizeExamples Serving Size
Egg1Low fat milk
Unsweetened, low fat
yoghurt
1 cup
Cheese, low fat30g 2/week
Cottage cheese4 Tbs
Tuna, canned in
water: drain & rinse
2 Tbs = 100ml
Salmon, fresh60g
White fish cooked70g
Beef /ostrich mince, extra lean, cooked30g cooked = 2Tbs
Lean roast meat30g cooked
Rump / sirloin steak30g = 3x5x2cm
Pork / lean lamb chop30g = ⅓ medium
Chicken drumstick 30g = 1 small
Chicken thigh: no skin
Chicken breast
30g = ½ med

Energy foods

Wholegrains
ExamplesServing Size
High fibre cereal: Bran Flakes/Hi Fibre Bran½ cup
Wholewheat/Apple-Bake Pronutro⅓ cup
Homemade, low fat Low GI muesli¼ cup
Cooked Oats (NOT EasyOats)½ cup
Low GI / Rye /Pumpernickel bread1 slice
Provitas3
Ryvita, wholegrain2
Popped popcorn1 ½ cups
Digestive biscuits2
Soup: thicken with pureed beans/30g nuts1 cup
Mealie1 small
Potato1 medium
Baby potatoes2-3
Mashed potato2-3
Sweet potato50g
Cooked rice½ cup
Cooked durum wheat pasta / couscous½ cup

Fruits

Berries
1 serving/day
ExamplesServing Size
Raspberries
Blueberries
Cranberries
Goji berries
Gooseberries
Mulberries
½ cup
Strawberries10
Kumquats100g
Grapes 10

Vegetables

Vegetables
ExamplesServing Size
CRUCIFEROUS
1/day

Rocket30-80g chopped
Cabbage½ cup cooked
Broccoli, cauliflower½ cup cooked
Brussel sprouts 12g
GREEN 1/day
Bean sproutsNo limit
Lettuce No limit
SpinachNo limit
Kale No limit
OTHER 2/day
Asparagus50g
Carrots50g / ½ cup
Celery No limit
CucumberNo limit
Eggplant / Brinjal50g
Robot peppersNo limit
LeeksNo limit
Onion½ cup cooked
All squash½ cup cooked
TomatoesNo limit

Other

SpicesFlaxseedsFatsSugar/Sweets
1 serving/day
Sprinkle on oats, soups, salads
ExamplesServing SizeExamplesServing SizeExamplesServing SizeExamplesServing Size
Turmeric ¼ tspGround flaxseeds1 tablespoonOlive oil1tspSugar / jam / honey1tsp
All other spices (salt-free!)1tspCanola oil1tspJelly babies5
All herbs1tspSalt-free margarine1tspSparkles 2
Salt-free butter1tsp
Low sodium salad dressing2tsp

Sample Menu

BreakfastSoya Life porridge + ½ Cup Berries
SnackSoya Life meal replacement drink smoothie: Add 2 other fruits
LunchWholegrain / rye toast + baked beans / soya patty tomato-onion gravy / bean soup
SnackFruit / Wholegrain crackers + nut butter / hummus
Supper2/week = meat/chicken

5/week = beans/lentils/soya strips + brown rice/pasta/potatoes/sweet potatoes + 3 portions veggies
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