Go Plant-Based and Protect Your Brain
by Karen Pullen
Of all the health issues we’d like to prevent, losing our mental abilities tops the list. Losing memory and brain power means stripping away our most critical capabilities. If the process drags on over years, as it often does, it can weigh on our families and exhaust them physically, emotionally, and financially.
But losing memory, alertness, and concentration is not automatic. Your brain calendar doesn’t come equipped with an eraser.
From evidence-based research, we know that a plant-based diet promotes physical health. But it also has a powerful protective effect on brain health as well.
Toxic metals Research on toxic metals in Alzheimer’s disease is in progress but some things are clear: do not overdo it with iron, copper, or zinc. Organ meats and shellfish are loaded with metals, and meats in general deliver more iron than the body can safely handle. Check labels on processed foods for aluminum. Choose safe cookware—free of copper and iron on cooking surfaces. Avoid aluminum cans. Choose only vitamin supplements that omit minerals.
Fats Saturated fat is a bad fat, harmful to the brain. It increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Saturated fat is much higher in animal foods, strikingly low in foods from plant sources. But not all fats are bad. Your cells love good fat, the omega-3 fats found in vegetables, fruits, beans, and more plentifully in walnuts, seeds, and flax.
Vitamins Certain important vitamins play a vital role in protecting your brain. Vitamin E, an antioxidant, protects against free radicals. It reduces the risk of developing dementia. Nuts and seeds are rich in Vitamin E.
B vitamins—B6, B12, and folate—operate as a team to eliminate homocysteine, a nasty actor that works with copper and iron to damage brain cells. B vitamins are found in fresh produce, whole grains, and beans. B12 is in fortified products, and is the only supplement essential for people who avoid animal products.
The healthiest diets exclude animal products completely. Studies show that choosing the veggie burger, or filling the taco shell with veggies, unfried beans, and cashew cream instead of meat and cheese, results in an enormous return on investment. Those people are healthier. Their weight drops, arteries open up, diabetes improves, blood pressure gets to where it should be. And their brain cells are thankful.
Karen Pullen is a mystery writer and the former owner of a vegetarian B&B. She is an instructor of Food for Life courses in healthy eating, certified in plant-based nutrition and plant-based cooking. Learn more at, www.everydayplant-based.com.
Easy Veggie Tacos
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 T apple cider vinegar
- 3 T lemon juice (1 small lemon)
Blend until smooth, then set aside. Note: If you are not using a high-speed blender, boil water and soak the cashews for 15 minutes, then drain, rinse, and proceed with recipe.
Unfried Refried Beans
Cook 1 small red onion, chopped, with a splash of water until soft. Stir in:
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder, and a pinch of black pepper.
Drain and rinse two cans of cannellini or pinto beans, mash with a fork.
Add to the onions, mix well, and warm.
Heat a pan and cook until soft:
- 1/2 cup corn kernels
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 cups chopped mushrooms
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
- pinch of black pepper
Assemble the tacos on corn tortillas – beans, veggies, cashew cream, and any extras like lettuce and salsa. No saturated fat, low calorie density, and nutrients your brain will love—go for it! Have another one!