Food and Dementia: Does Diet Reduce the Risk?

While it’s normal to experience occasional forgetfulness as we age, like misplacing our glasses or missing an appointment, memory loss is not a normal part of aging. However, it’s a condition that many older adults experience. In fact, nearly 5 million Americans, aged 65 and older, have been diagnosed with a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is an overall term used to describe a wide range of medical conditions caused by abnormal brain changes.” Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, accounts for nearly 60-80% of all dementia cases.

While Alzheimer’s and dementia can show up differently in each person, many have problems with short-term memory, remembering appointments and trouble with comprehension, especially when it comes to finances. While we can’t completely eliminate our risk of developing dementia, there are simple things we can do to decrease it. In fact, it can be as simple as eating a healthy diet.

Diet and its Effect on Dementia

It’s been proven that diet can have a profound impact on our overall health, especially as we age. While research is somewhat limited, there are three diets that have been linked to decreasing the risk of dementia.

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers traditionally thought a high sodium diet resulted in high blood pressure. However, sodium can have a different effect on different people. This prompted further research to study how different diets can impact blood pressure. The DASH diet, which is heavily focused on fruits and vegetables, was found to lower blood pressure significantly. Because heart disease is a common risk factor for dementia, the DASH diet has been encouraged by many researchers as a way to decrease that risk. Those who follow the DASH diet aim to reduce their blood pressure by:

• Eating foods low in fat and cholesterol
• Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts
• Decreasing the amount of red meats, sweets and sugar-based beverages

The Mediterranean Diet

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by abnormal build-up of proteins around our brain cells. The Mediterranean Diet, which includes high levels of antioxidants, can actually protect our brain cells from damage, while also reducing brain inflammation and lowering cholesterol. This diet primarily focuses on fruit, healthy fats, herbs, fish and poultry, while limiting consumption of butter, red meat and salt.

The MIND Diet

This diet is specifically designed to prevent dementia in older adults. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet were combined to create Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND. A study published by Rush University Medical Center showed that, “the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53% in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously and by 35% in those who followed it moderately well.” To create the MIND diet, researchers combined elements of both diets and added emphasis on foods that were shown to benefit brain health.

Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet

According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers found that older adults, “whose diets most closely resembled the pattern laid out in the MIND diet had brains as sharp as people 7.5 years younger.” While the MIND diet closely resembles foods found in the DASH and Mediterranean diets, it focuses strictly on foods closely linked to dementia prevention. According to Healthline Magazine, these are the main food types eaten when following the MIND diet:

• Green leafy vegetables including kale, spinach and greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. Researchers have suggested that consuming six servings or more provide the greatest benefits.

• All other vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber that are good for overall health. These are recommended in addition to green leafy vegetables.

• Berries- When creating the MIND diet, researchers found that berries in particular are excellent for improving cognitive function and protecting the brain. Researchers suggest eating berries at least twice a week.

• Nuts contain healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants and can even lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet suggests consuming five servings of nuts per week.

• Olive Oil is a recommended alternative for butter. Studies have shown that olive oil can protect against cognitive decline.

• Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, bread and quinoa should be consumed three times a day when following the MIND diet.

• Fish such as tuna, salmon and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can help protect brain function. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet suggests consuming fish once a week.

• Beans are high in fiber and protein, but low in fat and calories. Beans can help you feel full and provide you with nutrients while also keeping your brain sharp.

• Poultry such as chicken and turkey are recommended twice a week.

• Wine- Research shows that red wine can help protect against Alzheimer’s. However, the MIND diet recommends consuming no more than one glass per day.

Healthy Eating Tips for Dementia Prevention

Making drastic changes to your diet can be difficult. If the MIND diet isn’t for you, there are still plenty of ways to use your diet to reduce your risk of dementia. There are certain foods to help prevent dementia that you can consume to help keep your mind healthy. You might consider adopting some of these simple habits to protect your brain without following a strict food plan:

Cut down on sugar
Food and beverages that contain sugar such as soda and refined carbs, can cause our blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, which can inflame the brain. Before eating packaged foods, be sure to read the nutrition label and check for added sugar.

Consume omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats contain docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is thought to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Omega 3 fats are found in salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel. If you prefer not to eat fish, you can supplement with fish oil.

Increase fruits and vegetables
Both fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and can prevent inflammation. While berries are directly linked to brain health, all fruits and vegetables help to protect your body from illness.

Cook at home
When we prepare our own meals, we have control over what ingredients we are using and what we are consuming. While eating at restaurants and picking up take-out can be delicious and convenient, there might be hidden sugar and unhealthy fats.

Drink in moderation
While one glass of wine per day is linked to brain health, overdrinking can raise the risk of memory related diseases.

Preventing Dementia at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is a top priority at Maplewood Senior Living . That’s why each community offers a wide variety of meal and food options to keep our residents physically and mentally healthy. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

Benefits of Locally Sourced Food

There is nothing like the flavor of a fresh tomato plucked straight out of the garden or the scent of rosemary that’s just been picked. Many of you may have memories of picking fresh vegetables out of your mother’s or grandmother’s garden and carrying them into the kitchen to eat right away or to add to dinner that night. Now with the convenience of supermarkets and the busyness of life – many of us no longer have the time or energy for gardens but the benefits of food coming straight from the farm or farmer’s market can’t be ignored.
By eating and buying local, you are able to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables that are picked at their peak of ripeness and packed with nutrients and flavor. Whereas much of the produce found in grocery stores is picked before it is ripe in order to travel long distances to reach your table. Of course, cutting down on food miles also helps save the environment by reducing emissions and supports local farmers and growers.

Locally Grown Food at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living , we source as much food as we can locally and for our Connecticut communities, some of it comes from our own farm in Easton. You may be wondering, why buy local? Chef Dave Simmonds, Senior Culinary Services Director at Maplewood Senior Living, told us, “Whenever I mention the ‘Farm’ to a resident or potential resident, they instantly want to go and help out. There is no denying that freshly picked food is just better.”
“In fact, I just passed a resident in the hall and she was holding a fresh heirloom tomato that was just picked from her daughter’s garden. She was glowing as she walked down the hall holding the tomato as if it was a the first-place trophy, it was priceless to see and the tomato was beautiful,” said Dave.

When produce does arrive at communities from the farm, residents do get a real thrill. It triggers memories of their gardens growing up and reminds them of digging up fresh potatoes or pulling up carrots. To compliment sourcing food locally, we also create open kitchens in our communities to enhance the experience. Residents can see our chefs at work creating their meals right in front of them. They can smell a piece of fish frying in a pan or hear the chef chopping herbs for a salad.

Inspired Dining at Maplewood Senior Living

As people age, their sense of taste often decreases, which makes eating fresh, flavorful foods even more important. By watching our culinary teams at work, residents are engaged in the process and often talk to the chef about the preparation of the food.
For our residents who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, we offer our Inspired Dining program which allows them to engage in a culinary dining experience that helps them to discover the joy of living in the moment. Inspired Dining is an overall sensory philosophy, which includes the use of purposeful and custom-made scent focusing on enhancing mood and appetite. In line with recommendations from the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association, we serve fresh brightly colored foods on white plates with contrasting colored table linens to help make the food more distinguishable for residents who have difficulty with depth perception, which is very common among those with dementia.

Seasonal, Local Ingredients for Every Meal

Our chefs build relationships with local farmers and producers to plan their weekly menus around what is in season. The chefs in our Connecticut communities not only source produce from our farm in Easton, but additionally from the rest of the state and neighboring New York and Massachusetts. Baggott Family Farms provides everything from cucumbers and squash to corn, peas and peppers and from the Harvest Farm of Whately we get collard greens, kale, Swiss chard and mint. In the fall, Hudson River Fruit in New York provides us with delicious apples and pears.

In our Massachusetts communities, the proximity to the ocean adds another resource, especially on Cape Cod. Our chefs get deliveries of fresh seafood from Chatham Fish and Lobster and everything from lettuce, beets, tomatoes, herbs and squash from Crow Farm. When it comes to local cheeses, we source them from Great Hill Dairy in Marion that has award-winning Blue Cheese. In fact, it placed 8th in the 2018 World Cheese Championships.
Further afield, from Providence, Rhode Island, we source mozzarella, yogurt and ricotta from Narragansett Creamery. This family-run business was started in 2007 by Mark and Pattie Federico and they now produce 14 different kinds of cheese along with yogurt. PJ Cranberry Bogs are located nearby in Sandwich and the fall delivers freshly harvested cranberries, synonymous with Cape Cod, for pies and jelly.

Our Ohio communities, of which there are three, also benefit from the talent of local farmers and producers. Kaiser Pickles is our source for pickles, peppers and relishes. From Waterfields in Cincinnati, we source microgreens and herbs along with edible flowers. The benefits of consuming local honey have not been lost on our culinary teams either. In addition to adding flavor to dishes, eating local honey has soothing properties, it is antibacterial and it can help alleviate seasonal allergies. We source our Ohio honey from Stein’s Honey, a family-owned business started over twenty years ago with two beehives. They now have over 625 hives, produce honey, comb honey, cream honey and beeswax candles.

Enjoy a Fresh, Locally Sourced Menu at Maplewood Senior Living

While it is not always possible to source everything locally, at Maplewood Senior Living, we do our best to source as much as possible from each state or neighboring states. The results of our efforts show in the dishes we create for our residents and their overwhelmingly positive response. To learn more about our commitment to culinary excellence and our Inspired Dining program, please contact us.

Senior Nutrition: Blue Zone Inspired Meals at Maplewood

Bestselling author and founder of Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, has been writing about and studying regions in the world called Blue Zones. Aptly named because they have the highest number of centenarians in the world, Buettner has been collecting time-tested recipes of foods that promote longer life.
In a recent article in National Geographic (January 2020), Buettner revisits four key locations that he visited over fourteen years ago; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, California. The diets in these four regions are based primarily on plants and grains, tubers, and nuts. Eating minimally processed foods appears to have a great impact on the overall health of the people living in these regions, for example, “On Okinawa, as compared to the United States, residents are three times as likely to reach 100, women suffer about half the rate of breast cancer, both sexes are afflicted by a third to a quarter the rate of heart disease, and elderly people die from Alzheimer’s dementia a tenth to a twelfth the rate.”

Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, improving the health of our residents, their memory and slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, are an integral part of what we do in our communities. Our meals are filled with variety including new and seasonally inspired choices every day. We provide a combination of locally sourced food with a global infusion and many dishes have ingredients that help brain health and memory. While we like to offer residents meals that they are familiar with we also like to keep their taste buds active by offering newer variations and some vegetable-based options.
At Maplewood at Southport, Culinary Service Director, Catie Eykelhoff, incorporates Blue Zone diets into her lunch service. She told us, “We offer a different Chef’s Power Bowl each day. Items and options vary with season and availability. Some of the most popular are our Grain Bowls which tend to focus on hearty grains, vegetables and great flavor combinations that residents may not have had before. More than often they are plant-based, protein-packed and include a variety of flavors and textures which fall into a Blue Zone Diet. “
To recreate these recipes at home is simple. We recommend making some of the core ingredients ahead of time such as the barley, brown rice and quinoa then each day you can layer in different combinations to suit your taste. If you’d like to recreate the bowls Chef Catie demonstrated for us, the recipes are below.

Chef’s Power Bowls
Tuscan Inspired Power Bowl: Barley, Kale, Broccolini, Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, Basil, Balsamic Reduction.
• 1 cup Barley (cooked)
• 1 cup Kale (shredded)
• 4 Broccolini (blanched
• 10 Grape Tomatoes (cut in half)
• 1/3 cup Cannellini Beans (cooked or canned)
• ¼ cup Toasted Pine Nuts
• 1 Tablespoon Roasted Garlic
• Basil Leaves for garnish
• Balsamic Reduction drizzle

Asian Inspired Power Bowl: Brown Rice, Avocado, Sautéed Mushrooms, Shredded Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Roasted Peanuts, Seasoned Tofu, Sriracha-Soy Glaze.
• 1 cup Brown Rice (cooked)
• ½ Avocado (sliced)
• ¼ cup Mushrooms (sautéed)
• ¼ cup Green Beans (blanched)
• 1 Tablespoon Almonds (sliced)
• 3 ounces Seasoned Tofu (pan-seared)
• Sriracha-Soy Glaze

Mediterranean Inspired Power Bowl: Quinoa, Green Chickpeas, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Olives, Sunflower Seeds, Lemon-Tahini Drizzle.
• 1 cup Quinoa (cooked)
• ¼ cup Green Chickpeas)
• 1 Roasted Sweet Potato (sliced or diced)
• ½ cup baby Spinach
• ¼ cup Olives
• 1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
• Lemon-Tahini Drizzle
• Note: Starting at the top, layer or section all ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing.

If you’ve been a big meat eater your whole life, it will take time to make changes. Small steps at a time make a difference. Consider incorporating new foods that are known for boosting your brain and memory. Perhaps pick one day a week to go meat-free? Or try something new each week like adding turmeric into a soup or chicken dish? Even dark chocolate is reported to help boost your mood and your memory. Pick up a copy of The Blue Zones Kitchen (100 Recipes to Live to 100) for some inspiration on senior nutrition.

Promoting Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living we know how important eating well is, especially for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That’s why we provide our residents with delicious meals sourced from local farms and businesses. If you are interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour and sample our healthy options, please feel free to contact us.

The Importance of Gut Health for Seniors

Seniors should learn more about the importance of gut health as they age.

It’s obvious that maintaining our gut health is important because it helps us absorb nutrients into our bodies, which we need in order to live. But, what isn’t as obvious is the importance of gut health when it comes to other aspects of our well-being. In fact, science suggests that our gut health is inherently linked to our brain health. At any age, it’s not uncommon to experience digestive issues like stomach aches or indigestion. But, as we get older these and other issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and gas can become common occurrences.

Just as our bodies change with age, so does our gut. Our gut microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria that play an important part in nutrient absorption and digestion, becomes less diverse the older we get. This can lead to weak digestion and reduced nutrient absorption, ultimately causing abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. When we experience these gut problems, it’s also a signal that something else in our bodies might need to be addressed.

Importance of Gut Health: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

There are many reasons that your gut might be unhealthy. Food, medicine, and stress can all affect the way our guts work. According to Healthline magazine, there are a lot of ways to tell if your gut might be imbalanced. Here are the top warning signs people with an unhealthy gut experience:

Upset stomach
The most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut or imbalanced microbiome is experiencing stomach disturbances. These can look like bloating and gas or constipation and diarrhea. On the other hand, a balanced gut won’t have problems with digesting and will feel normal.

High sugar diet
If your diet is mostly comprised of highly processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, you run the risk of decreasing the good bacteria in your gut. The problem with sugar is that the more you eat, the more you crave, which can cause you to damage your gut even more. In addition, sugar, especially refined sugar, which we find in processed foods, can cause inflammation resulting in discomfort and even lead to some diseases.

Unintentional weight changes
If you’re experiencing unwanted or unintentional weight loss or gain, it might be because your gut bacteria are imbalanced. An unhealthy gut is unable to absorb the nutrients and fat we need for energy. This can cause weight gain through overeating when our bodies don’t absorb nutrients, or weight loss because of bacterial overgrowth.

Sleep disturbances
Serotonin, which is produced in the gut, is a hormone that affects our sleep. When we have an unhealthy gut, it can result in an imbalance of serotonin, which can lead to insomnia and fatigue.

Skin irritation
Our gut has such a large effect on our body’s health that not understanding the importance of gut health can lead to skin conditions. Diseases like eczema and other skin conditions can be caused by gut inflammation due to an imbalanced diet or food allergies.

Autoimmune conditions
An unhealthy gut has the capacity to increase inflammation all over the body. When this happens long enough, it is thought to alter the way our immune system is supposed to work. This can cause autoimmune disease, which means our bodies attack the immune system instead of harmful bacteria.

Food intolerances
Most people have slight food intolerances, even if they are unaware of them. This means that our bodies have difficulty digesting different foods. If we don’t have the right kinds of bacteria in our gut to process these foods, it can often lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, and nausea.

Importance of Gut Health: Tips for Improving Yours

When we think about important parts of our bodies, we might immediately think of the brain, heart, and lungs. But the truth is that our guts are just as valuable. In fact, some researchers refer to the gut as “the second brain” because of its deep impact on the rest of the body. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep your gut healthy and working properly.

Diversify your diet
Our guts are comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria. In order to keep these helpful bacteria in our guts, it’s important to eat a variety of foods full of different nutrients. We can do this by trying different vegetables, eating food that is grown locally and focus on foods that are in season.

Concentrate on fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens
Our guts need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, most of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Not only can we get the nutrients we need, but these foods also decrease the risk of disease-causing bacteria in our gut.

Eat whole grains
Our guts need help growing good bacteria in order to prevent our risk of disease and illness. Whole grain foods like brown rice, quinoa, and oats help promote the growth of good bacteria while also increasing feelings of fullness and reducing inflammation.

Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotic foods help aid digestion and reduce inflammation while also generating various vitamins. Some foods high in probiotics include yogurt, cheese, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.

The Importance of Gut Health: The Impact on Dementia and Depression

Our guts play a large role in our health and wellbeing, but recent research suggests its impact on our health might be much larger than we thought initially. In fact, a recent study conducted through the Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders suggests that those who have been diagnosed with dementia have a vastly different population of bacteria in their gut when compared to those who have never been diagnosed.

In addition, some studies suggest that the foods we eat can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. Some researchers suggest that an increased intake of high sugar and fatty foods can cause depressive symptoms, while eating a well-balanced diet staves off depressive symptoms.

Exploring a Healthier Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living

Maplewood Senior Living takes gut health, and overall health, seriously. That’s why one of our priorities is to offer foods high in nutrients and minerals in order to keep our residents happy and healthy. Every day offers residents a new chance to pursue a healthier lifestyle. If you’d like to hear more about our culinary offerings or to tour our facilities, please contact us here.

Foods That Fight Aging

It’s no surprise that the process of aging changes our bodies in a variety of ways, some of which we can see and others we cannot. However, what most people don’t know, is that as we age our dietary needs change as well. Because of this, many older adults accidentally put themselves at risk of becoming malnourished. Consuming a well-balanced diet helps strengthen the immune system, and ultimately allows our bodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. When we under-nourish our bodies, we can negatively affect its ability to protect us. Understanding what our bodies need can ultimately keep us out of the hospital, and live healthier, longer lives.

How do our Needs and Habits Change?

 Calories and Appetite

It is not uncommon for older adults to eat less as they age. Most older adults might not be as physically active as they were in their younger years, which means they don’t necessarily need to eat as much as they once did. However, undereating can cause a wide variety of health problems.

Food sensitivities can also affect a person’s appetite, making it difficult to consume the appropriate amount of food each day. Some older adults might experience food sensitivities especially to foods like onions, peppers, dairy, and hot spices. If these are causing discomfort or pain after eating, they might need to be eliminated from your diet.

Nutrition Absorption

Even while monitoring your food and nutrition, medications can interfere with the nutrients your body is able to absorb. If you are taking a variety of medications, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about supplements you can add to your diet.

Immune System

Unfortunately, as we age our immune systems can weaken, making our bodies more vulnerable to illness and disease. However, we can strengthen our immune systems by consuming different types of food and nutrients.

Continue reading “Foods That Fight Aging”

Food for Thought

The culinary experience at Maplewood Senior Living is one that will leave your taste buds craving more. Through partnerships with local farms, and our own farm in Easton, Connecticut, we’re able to provide fresh seasonal produce that our chefs use to create delicious meals morning, noon and night. Because of this, our residents enjoy the vibrant tastes of each season and reap the long list of health benefits that come from eating freshly harvested fruits and vegetable.

We sat down with Mary Ellen Greenfield, Corporate Director of Culinary Services, to learn more about the benefits of utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients and here is what we learned.

Aside from supporting the local economy, sourcing our foods locally allows for produce to arrive at our communities shortly after being harvested. There are a couple of health benefits that come from reducing transport time. The first is a lowered risk of contamination. As food moves across states or changes hands, the possibility of bacteria exposure increases.

Additionally, the more time that passes between the food being collected and being eaten, the more fruits and vegetables lose valuable nutrients. The best time to eat food is right after it’s picked, when the nutritional value is highest. For that reason, transporting food locally, as opposed to across multiple states, can significantly improve the nutritional value to the consumer.

Fresh produce also taste better, which is important for our residents. Appetites often decrease with age, and yet the need for nutrient-rich food remains. We want to provide the best-tasting dishes that our residents are excited to try. With fresh, tasty ingredients, we can offer delicious options, even for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have limited ability to eat a three-course meal.

At Maplewood, our connection to farms, including our own, means we utilize fresh foods that grow naturally for the season. Flavors are richer and nutrient levels are at their highest. This close connection to the supply allows our culinary team to design recipes around the freshest ingredients.

An example of these unique recipes is shared below from Giovanni Dillard, Chef at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. This particular summer kale and carrot salad recipe utilizes kale grown at our Maplewood farm in Easton, Connecticut and is favorite among residents.

Kale and Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

1lb Purple kale

1lb Green kale

2c Golden raisins

4c Shredded carrot

2c Light mayonnaise

2tsp Garlic powder

2tsp Apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Chop kale into bit size pieces. Toss shredded carrot, golden raisins, and kale with light mayo.

Lastly season with garlic powder and apple cider vinegar.

Refrigerate till ready to use to let flavors combine.

Download Recipe: Kale and Carrot Salad Recipe

  Continue reading “Food for Thought”