Power Foods for The Brain – By Neal D. Barnard, MD

Power Foods for The Brain - by Neal D. Barnard, MD
Power Foods for The Brain - by Neal D. Barnard, MD

Dr. Neal Barnard’s father spent the last years of his life expressionless and mostly mute. His dementia ran in the family – all four of Barnard’s grandparents suffered from it as they aged.

The last years of their lives were miserable. Logic dictated that Barnard himself, now 66 years old, would be showing signs of the same fate.

And maybe he would be, had the former McDonald’s fry cook stayed on a path of less-than-optimal nutrition. Instead, he decided to research the most effective ways of preventing it. The result is Power Foods for The Brain.

If you follow health-related news, you might know that research has linked toxic-metal absorption to Alzheimer’s disease. Early in the book, Barnard addresses this topic head-on.

Studies have found copper, iron and zinc in the brain-clogging plaques of Alzheimer’s. The first two, Dr. Barnard writes, “appear to spark the production of free radicals that can damage brain cells.” Zinc, however, seems to trigger brain proteins to form plaques.

So the consensus is that, by working together, these three minerals clog the brain’s tissues and destroy its function.

But there’s another connection, based on research from California’s Loma Linda University, Chicago’s Health and Aging Project and New York’s Columbia University.

When these three metals encounter the saturated fats found in animal products and processed foods, Dr.Barnard says, the results can be disastrous:

“Toxic fats cause your body to make cholesterol,” he writes. “And cholesterol… encourages the production of the beta-amyloid [protein} that is so hard on your brain cells. Metals aggravate this process, and bit by bit the connections that recorded… what you ate for breakfast begin to go haywire.”

He cautions, “…you do need some copper, iron, and zinc, but all of these metals are toxic in excess.” So how do we walk the fine line between not enough and too much?

Begin with a plant-based diet! Vegetables, beans and whole grains, he says, contain “adequate amounts” of zinc and copper. And beans and green vegetables contain nonheme iron, which your body absorbs only in the amount it needs!

The five-year Columbia University study showed that combining regular exercise and healthy foods cuts your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 60 percent!

To make a healthy diet even more effective, Dr.Barnard advises using copper- and iron-free cookware (yes, avoid even cast-iron skillets.) If you take a vitamin-mineral supplement, switch to one with vitamins only.

Another study from Japanese researchers followed more than 1000 participants for 15 years. Its found that people with prediabetes were 35 percent more likely to develop dementia. Among full diabetics, the risk climbed by 74 percent.

Chapter 9 of Power Foods for the Brain discusses how a low-fat vegan diet can reduce or eliminate the blood sugar spikes associated with diabetes.

And what about aluminum? Researchers have debated since the 1970s whether it plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. But why take a chance, when Dr. Barnard emphasizes, “You don’t need aluminum at all.

So avoid anything in an aluminum can — and wrap acidic foods like tomatoes in anything but aluminum foil. And, i your antiperspirant contains aluminum or alum, switch to one without it.

I could tell Dr. Barnard wrote Power Foods for the Brain with his parents in mind. The words on each page are a firm but gentle exhortation to his readers to improve their lives — and avoid meeting the same fate!

Read my reviews of his other books here:

Your Body in Balance.

The Vegan Starter Kit.

The Cheese Trap.

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