The Alzheimer's Association is recommending that consumers consider a brain-healthy diet as part of their New Year's resolutions.
A brain-healthy diet consists of foods that reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourage good blood flow to the brain and are low in fat and cholesterol.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, a long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese in middle age were twice as likely to develop dementia in later life. Those who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure had six times the risk of dementia. Studies have also shown that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol clogs the arteries and is associated with higher risk for Alzheimer's disease. Foods that are high in naturally occurring antioxidants, which promote cell health, are associated with lower risk.
"Kentucky is home to more than 80,000 people living with Alzheimer's disease," Teri Shirk, executive director of the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a news release. "We don't know all the causes, but heredity and diet are factors. The good news is that there are several delicious things we can add to or substitute in our diets to reduce our chances of Alzheimer's."
■ Dark-skinned fruits and vegetables, which have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant. Such vegetables include kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes and cherries.
■ Cold water fish, which contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids: halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.
■ Some nuts, including almonds, pecans and walnuts, are a good source of vitamin E, another antioxidant.
The association also says there is some indication that vitamins, such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together, vitamin B12 and folate, might be important in lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer's. A brain-healthy diet will help increase your intake of these vitamins and the trace elements necessary for the body to use them effectively. Go to Alz.org/kyin.
Food trends to watch
Marketing communications brand JWT has released its annual forecast of trends for 2014. Watch for:
■ Edible packaging: A tool being used by marketers that utilizes new technologies to create edible wrappers. To make their goods more sustainable, marketers are harnessing new technologies to create edible wrappers. The Bob's burger chain in Brazil now serves its burgers in packaging you can eat, while L.A.-based ice cream truck brand Coolhaus wraps ice cream sandwiches in edible material. And Harvard bioengineer David Edwards is behind WikiPearl, whose edible packaging can enclose any food or beverage "like a grape skin."
■ Infused ice cubes: Mixologists are starting to push the flavors of their concoctions with infused ice cubes that are different shapes and sizes and made with juices, fruits, syrups and herbs. They enhance the look of the beverage, and as they melt, rather than dilute the cocktail, the cubes add complementary flavors. They also up the cost.
■ Silent meals: In an effort to help diners eat more mindfully, we'll see some restaurants hold silent meals. The Brooklyn restaurant Eat has done this periodically, asking patrons to remain quiet and focus on the taste of the food, the sounds of the food prep and the details of the room. In Mexico City, "anti-restaurants" have popped up where people eat in silence.
■ Ugly produce: Proudly Imperfect, the lumpy form of an heirloom tomato or gnarled carrots at a farmers market, are gaining more appeal than the prettier produce commonly seen at supermarkets. In Europe, there's a movement afoot to reduce food waste by selling rather than discarding imperfect produce. Some groups encouraging people to buy imperfect produce and speak out against regulations governing the appearance of produce sold in stores.
Pouch handy for smoothies
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to add healthful smoothies and shakes to your diet, here's a product that will make them easier to tote in your lunch bag.
EZ Squeezees is a refillable and reusable pouch with a large zippered side for easy, mess-free filling. Just fill with your favorite puree or shake, zip, eat, and then wash and reuse. They are BPA and phthalate free, as well as dishwasher and freezer safe. EZ Squeezees hold 6.5 ounces of food and can be reused about 15 times per pouch. Cost is $9.99 for a 3-pack. Go to Ezsqueezees.com.
Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.