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Health Benefits of Tomatoes & the Mediterranean Diet

Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fish could help reduce the risk of dementia and improve memory care

Most of us know that healthy eating, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep each night is important for our overall wellness, especially as we age. If you have a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes, you may cut out red meats, sugar, and saturated fats. But if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, or have a loved one who is currently living with memory illness, how does diet make a difference?

The best way to reduce the risk or dementia or potentially slow the progression of the disease is to adapt various aspects of your lifestyle, including diet, physical and mental exercise. There is some evidence that sticking to a Mediterranean-style diet, when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits, can reduce the risk of developing problems with memory, problem-solving, and getting some forms of dementia.

Mediterranean Diet: What it is and how it helps

Mediterranean-style diets are typically rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and cereals. Sources of protein come from moderate consumption of oily fish and dairy. There is little to no red meat, sugar or saturated fat. Investigation of the Mediterranean-style diet started in the 1960’s where researchers observed that adult men who followed the diet had lower rates of heart attacks. This finding prompted additional research, some of which lead to the link between the Mediterranean diet and dementia risk.

So, what exactly makes the Mediterranean diet so great for reducing the risk of dementia? A recent study suggests that the high levels of antioxidants coming from the high intake of fruits and vegetable may help protect cells from deterioration. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease develop and progress when healthy brains are no longer able to generate new cells. Without new, healthy cells, the pathways within the brain that transmit thoughts, memories, and bodily commands are blocked. Remembering words, names, and how to do daily tasks because impossible because the brain can’t send information throughout the body.

Some research suggests that high levels of antioxidants and an increase in healthy proteins and fats help protect brain cells from the deterioration of dementia. A Mediterranean-style diet is also linked to lower levels of cholesterol, which may also be associated with memory and thinking problems in adults.

It is important to recognize that while the research from these studies is promising, the Mediterranean diet is not proven to fully prevent or stop the progression of dementia. People who follow this diet may lead a healthier lifestyle in general, which may be the actual cause of the difference in memory illnesses progression. For most of us, following a healthy diet and implementing positive lifestyle changes are good ways to promote healthy brain function.

Changes You Can Make: Health Benefits of Tomatoes

Making any kind of major lifestyle change is challenging. For adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a disruption in their regular routine can be uncomfortable and undesired. The key to making healthy lifestyle choices last is to make small changes over time and building on them, rather than overhauling your entire eating, exercise or sleeping schedule. If you are ready to try a Mediterranean-style diet, consider working season fruits and vegetables into your diet as a positive first step. Some of the best produce items to eat may already be one of your favorites: tomatoes!

Here are some of the tomato’s most impressive nutritional facts:

  • One medium-sized tomato contains only 22 calories
  • A good source of vitamin C (antioxidant), potassium (mineral beneficial for blood pressure), vitamin K (important for blood health), and B9 (important for healthy tissue growth and cell function)
  • Studies show that tomatoes and tomato products may reduce the risk of heart disease and several cancers. They are also considered to be beneficial for skin health and may protect against sunburns.
  • Research suggests that tomatoes may protect the brain from harmful inflammation and cell deterioration that causes memory and thinking problems

The summer months are a great time to work tomatoes into your diet, especially as locally grown produce becomes available close to home. Explore new recipes for salads, salsas, sandwiches, and juices that incorporate tomatoes

BLT Day at ComfortCare Homes Memory Care Wichita, KS

At ComfortCare Homes, the dedication to excellent residential memory care is at the heart of everything we do. This includes promoting healthy diets, physical and mental activity, socialization, and daily living assistance. A unique activity our Residents and Care Staff participate in each year is tomato growing and community cookout. Residents and Care Staff are given a tomato plant to grow, nurture, and develop into edible produce. At the end of the season, we take all the tomatoes grown by our memory care community and have an outdoor picnic. Our Residents’ produce is put onto BLT sandwiches, salads, and salsas that are enjoyed by seniors, their families, and caregivers alike.

Finding healthy activities for seniors who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t have to be a burden. With help from professional memory care providers at ComfortCare Homes, your senior can live an active, high-quality life while receiving the compassionate and skilled assistance they need.

Article Sources:

  1. “Mediterranean Diet and Dementia” – Alzheimer’s Society (United Kingdom)
  2. “Tomatoes 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits” – Healthline

For more information about memory care services provided by ComfortCare Homes, please call our office at (316) 444-0532.

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