June is Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Nearly 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and one of every three senior citizens who passes away has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. While there is no one “superfood” to help with brain health, there are some foods and lifestyles that have been linked to positive brain improvements.

Current research indicates that diets high in saturated fat and trans fat inhibit memory and increase the risk of brain dysfunction, so, whenever possible, choose healthier oils like olive oil and canola. Other foods that have been linked with positive brain health are walnuts, fish, berries and leafy green vegetables.

Walnuts contain vitamin E, antioxidants and omega-3s, and the omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts — as well as salmon and cold-water fish — have been associated with proper brain development in infants, increased memory in adults, and decreased onset of mental decline in the elderly.

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid. In the brain of someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, beta-amyloid has been shown to clump into plaques that then can collect between neurons and disrupt brain function. Berries contain flavonoids and antioxidants, both of which are important because they rid the body of free radicals that could eventually do harm to the brain. Leafy green vegetables provide nutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, beta-carotene, folate, vitamin B, and the antioxidants vitamins C and E.

The best menu for boosting memory and brain function promotes good blood flow to the brain. Here are some tips:

— Munch on vegetables.

— Eat berries and cherries.

— Work walnuts in as snacks and toppings.

— Eat foods rich in omega-3s.

— Combat saturated and trans fats with healthy fats.

— Skip simple sugars.

Those who are interested in learning more about how healthy living habits can benefit your brain and body are encouraged to participate in a workshop offered by Penn State Extension in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association 10-11 a.m. Aug. 7 at Farm and Home Center, 1383 Arcadia Road, in the training room. The program is titled “Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research.”

The program is designed for individuals of any age who are interested in healthy living and aging well. Participants will learn about the four areas of lifestyle habits that are associated with healthy aging, and the steps to take to improve or maintain overall health in each area. These four areas include: cognitive activity; physical health and exercise; diet and nutrition; and social engagement. There is no cost to attend the course.

For more information or to register, call Stacy Reed at 717-394-6851 or email sls374@psu.edu.

Stacy Reed is an educator with Penn State Extension in Lancaster, specializing in food safety and nutrition.

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