Okinawa in Japan has the highest number of centenarians in the world. Factors that may contribute to this include:
- social integration
- regular exercise
- sufficient exposure to sunlight
- a peaceful, spiritual lifestyle
- avoiding smoking
- following a calorie-restricted, low-glycaemic load diet
- eating plenty of vegetables and fruits that are high in protective antioxidants as well as blood-pressure lowering minerals such as potassium and magnesium
Okinawans’ diet is rich in phytoestrogens (mainly from soy, flax and legumes), which seem to protect them from osteoporosis and hormonal deficiencies. Senior Okinawans have higher sex hormones and DHEA than Westerners of the same age.
Okinawans don’t just live longer. Their quality of life in later years are better, and they remain mentally sharp for much longer than Westerners. Since the introduction of some aspects of the Western diet in Okinawa, there has been a slight decline in longevity in the region.
One aspect of their diet stands out: their staple food, purple sweet potato. The average adult in the region consumes more than half a kilo of purple sweet potato daily. What makes purple sweet potato unique is the presence of a purple compound called anthocyanin.
Anthocyanins are antioxidants that protect us against free radical damage (“rusting”). High free radical damage in the body is linked to premature aging and a higher incidence of lifestyle conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Japanese purple sweet potatoes with their characteristic purple flesh are currently unavailable in South Africa. Great alternatives include blackcurrants, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, red onion, red cabbage and aubergines.
Blackcurrants are the leaders of the pack. New Zealand Ben Ard Blackcurrants, for instance, score a staggering 121.50 on the ORAC scale compared to Canadian blueberries’ 60. New Zealand blackcurrants also outperform blueberries concerning their calcium, magnesium, potassium and zinc levels.
What anthocyanins may do for us:
- Increase our mental sharpness
- Normalise blood pressure
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer
- Improve eyesight
- Strengthen our blood vessels’ walls
- Slow aging
- Protect the liver
- Lower inflammation
- Lower blood uric acid levels
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Faster recovery after exercise
- Promote a healthy gut microbiome
- Support asthmatics.
Tips on how to stay mentally sharp
We can keep our brains fit and flexible with mental exercises such crossword puzzles. Exercising one’s brain for as little as 20 minutes three times a week can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to no less than 70%! Learning a new language is great for brain stimulation, as is social interaction.
Regular physical exercise plays a major role in reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Table tennis stands out in this regard. Factors such as complicated hand-eye co-ordination, footwork, upper body flexibility, aerobic exercise and social interaction during the game makes it an excellent choice for seniors who want to stay both physically and mentally sharp.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause cognitive decline. The elderly, vegetarians and vegans are particularly at risk. Try a sublingual supplement such as NRF Folate (supplying Vitamin B12 and folic acid) or Solgar Methyl Cobalamine.
Consume plenty of omega-3 rich foods such as walnuts, chia and flaxseeds, and oily fish such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, pilchards and calamari.
Consume half a teaspoon of dried rosemary daily to improve short-term memory.
Turmeric seems to protect our brains against the build-up of amyloid plague, a substance linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The golden spice also lowers systemic inflammation, linked to lifestyle conditions. Include turmeric in your daily diet or take a good supplement, such as Solgar Full Spectrum Curcumin or Coyne Health Bio-Curcumin.
Zinc makes us think. Avoid zinc deficiency. Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include white spots on the fingernails, skin conditions such as acne or dermatitis, a weak immune system, blankness of mind, and the loss of sense of smell and taste, to name a few.
A healthy gut is important for optimal brain health. Take a good probiotic supplement and includes fermented foods in your diet. Milk kefir and sauerkraut are particularly good. One probiotic strain that stands out above the rest is Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. It improves gut health, promotes proper liver functioning, lowers inflammation, lowers triglyceride and oxidised cholesterol levels and, very importantly, it raises glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master antioxidant, produced by the body to protect us form cancer-causing and aging free radicals. The brain needs optimal glutathione to function optimally.
Supplements that benefit cognition
Take natural supplements designed to improve cognitive functioning. DNA Biopharm Cerebro-Fast is a great choice. It contains top natural compounds and herbs to target brain health, including phosphatidylserine, amla, bacopa and turmeric, to name a few.
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