By Jennifer K. Morita
Liz Applegate is on a mission to convince people it really does matter what you eat.
The UC Davis Director of Sports Nutrition says eating more vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and berries reduces the risk of adult-onset diabetes as well as Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
“Would it surprise you if I told you eating for a healthy brain isn’t that much different from eating for a healthy heart?”
Applegate, a nationally renowned expert on nutrition, explained the benefits of the Mind Diet at a recent lecture on healthy brain food put on by the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
The Sacramento-based research center that also conducts comprehensive patient evaluations, has hosted a lecture series for the last five years.
“I realized five years ago that people didn’t have access to good information,” Administrator Jane LaGrande said. “We have a tremendous faculty, and we really wanted to share what we were doing and share information we knew about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
“We wanted to be a community resource and not just a place people come to for evaluations. We wanted an educational component for the public.”
Applegate said the death rate for Alzheimer’s Disease increased rapidly between 1980 and 2010, and the growing number of cases can’t be explained by the aging population alone.
“What the heck is going on? A lot of people want to think there are toxins in the water or contamination in our food. That’s an easy answer. We can fix that,” Applegate said. “But the bigger picture has to do with our lifestyle.”
Research shows people with Alzheimer’s and dementia have similar characteristics with people who have Type 2 diabetes, or adult onset diabetes.
The Mind Diet includes:
• Plants — eat at least one dark, leafy green salad or steamed vegetable, plus at least one other colorful vegetable per day.
• Fruits — eat one cup of berries at least twice a week. Frozen is as good as fresh, but dried berries lose many healthy benefits through the dehydrating process.
• Nuts — eat at least one ounce of nuts a day. No one nut is better than another. Sorry, chocolate covered nuts do not count.
• Beans — eat beans at least every other day.
• Red Wine — drink a 5-ounce glass of red wine per day, but you can’t save all your servings for the weekend. Wine can be substituted with pomegranate juice or dark, unsweetened grape juice.
• Poultry — eat poultry at least twice a week
• Seafood — eat fish at least once, preferably twice, a week
• Whole grains — the less processed, the better
It also calls for limiting:
• Saturated fats
• Meat, particularly beef
The Mind Diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and another research-based diet, known as DASH, geared to reduce hypertension.
“All three diets worked, if followed really well over time,” Applegate said. “But only the Mind Diet, even if it was modestly followed, still had a risk reduction.”
In addition to nutritional advice, Applegate offered a tip on dietary supplements.
While vegetables, berries and nuts are rich in vitamins and other healthy compounds, simply taking pills or a nutrition bar won’t have the same benefits.
“Don’t take a vitamin pill and think you’re covered,” Applegate said. “Vegetables and berries have hundreds of compounds, that’s why a bar or a pill or nutritional supplement is so inadequate relative to what real food provides.
“… There’s a synergy with what’s in food that we don’t understand, yet. Believe in food, question supplements.”
Applegate added that you should always consult your healthcare provider before taking memory supplements because they have many side effects.
This year’s lecture series will focus on maintaining a healthy brain and will touch on topics such as physical exercise and activity, diet, as well as social and intellectual stimulation, LaGrande said.
The upcoming lecture series so far includes:
• Dr. Charles DeCarli, UC Davis neurology professor, will discuss healthy brain aging, 6 p.m., May 25, MIND Institute, 2825 50th Street in Sacramento
• Caregiver Workshop, 8 a.m.- 12:30 p.m., Nov. 4, MIND Institute, 2825 50th Street in Sacramento
For more information about the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center and its 2017 lecture series go to www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/alzheimers or call (916) 734-5496.