We all know that following a healthier diet - eating more fruit, less fast food, and drinking in moderation - can have a huge impact on our physical and mental well-being. For those suffering with Alzheimer's though, making a few changes to their diet can help improve their symptoms.
Research has shown that, whilst Alzheimer's and dementia affect around 30 million people worldwide, those living in Mediterranean countries were less afflicted by these diseases. By following a Mediterranean diet then, sufferers of these diseases could really reap the benefits.
What is a Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes, and features moderate amounts of chicken and fish. Red meat is limited as is sugar and processed carbohydrates. Drinking a glass of red wine with meals has also been shown to increase the health benefits of this diet.
This diet isn't about superfoods and quick fixes; it's about healthy, day-to-day eating over the long term. Eating a colourful, varied diet like this will be enjoyable, and by preparing the meals yourself you have control over what you are putting into your body.
Here are the basics you need to know:
- Maximise your intake of vegetables, peas, beans, fruits, and whole grain
- Limit your red meat intake, substituting it with fish and poultry
- Use olive oil (of the mono-unsaturated variety) or rapeseed oil instead of butter or lard
- Limit the number of fast foods and ready meals in your diet
- Don't add salt to your food
- Only eat low-fat dairy products
- Snack on fruit, nuts and dried fruit rather than cakes and crisps
- Drink no more than 3 small glasses of red wine a day with your meals
- Drink lots of water every day, as opposed to sugary soft drinks
What are the benefits of following this diet?
Following a Mediterranean diet has huge health benefits for anyone. After all, it is centred around a much healthier lifestyle. But for Alzheimer sufferers, it can have even bigger benefits. We all know that the condition can be hugely debilitating, but following this diet can help your loved ones live a better quality of life.
An animal study involving mice at St. Louis University discovered that olive oil - a huge feature of the Mediterranean diet - can reduce memory loss and improve thinking. With Alzheimer's related memory loss having a devastating impact on everyone involved, this research is sure to be a huge selling point of the Mediterranean diet.
Other benefits of following this diet - benefits which could really improve an Alzheimer's sufferers' quality of life - include:
- Decreased levels of "bad" cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased risk of cancer
- Reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease
- Reduction in risk of stroke
- Protection from oxidative damage
- Improvement in cognitive function
While this diet won't completely cure a loved one from Alzheimer's, it can help lessen the severity of their symptoms and increase their quality of life. It can also help reduce your risk of developing the disease later in life.
Before switching a loved one onto this kind of diet, discuss all your options with your GP, or residential care staff. You will need to take any pre-existing medical conditions into account before making the switch, so ensure that you won't do more harm than good.
Solihull Care is a leading UK provider of residential, respite, and domiciliary care for Alzheimer's and dementia sufferers. To find out more about their services, visit their website at solihullcare.co.uk.