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Eat to Lower Your Risk of Dementia

You can help keep your brain healthy with these 6 foods — plus a dose of sunshine

Brain Foods

En español | The food you eat may have a lot to do with the health of your brain as you age, according to the latest research. And don't think you can just pop a vitamin pill — real food contains micronutrients that also play an important role. To protect your gray matter, consider consuming more of these foods.

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Get Full of Beans

Beans and green peas provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which may play a role in protecting against brain shrinkage as well as in maintaining blood sugar levels and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) and folic acid are also found in enriched grain products and cereals.

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Raise Your C Level

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, essential for healthy skin and blood vessel functioning, but some studies suggest it may protect against dementia-related brain plaque, too. Oranges, limes and lemons are a convenient source of ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), as are sweet peppers, strawberries, cantaloupes, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens.

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Add in Some Almonds

Vitamin E promotes healthy blood vessels, and studies have shown that people with high blood levels of the antioxidant have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Vitamin E may also slow the progression of Alzheimer's, a new study suggests. Add E to your diet with almonds, other nuts and avocado.

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Go Fishin'

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish reduce inflammation in the body. UCLA scientists found that people with lower omega-3 blood levels had more brain shrinkage and poorer performance on memory tests. Aim for eating fatty, cold-water fish, such as salmon, cod, herring and mackerel, once or twice a week.

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Savor Spinach

Spinach is packed with at least 15 different antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids, which have been shown to slow the formation of the beta-amyloid plaques that build up in those with Alzheimer's disease. What's more, spinach is rich in vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron.

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Crave Coffee

About three cups of coffee a day may help protect against Alzheimer's, a 2012 University of South Florida study found. Older adults with mild cognitive impairment who drank that much java were far less likely to develop full-blown Alzheimer's over the following two to four years than those who had very little or no caffeine.

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Get Some Sun

New research suggests that adults with low levels of vitamin D may have a higher risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer's or other cognitive problems. Exposing your sunscreen-free face, back, arms or legs to no more than 10 to 15 minutes of sunshine a few times a week could boost D levels.

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