A plant-based diet can do more than keep you healthy and improve your mood—it boosts brainpower too, if the experience of 23-year-old Swedish student Jonas Von Essen is any example. On Dec. 14, for the second year in a row, Von Essen won the World Memory Championship, a competition that attracts entrants from dozens of countries who complete a wide range of mental challenges. One of his most impressive feats included memorizing 26 packs of cards in one hour. Von Essen has followed a plant-based diet for several years, helping him through both his victory this year in China and in the 2013 competition in the U.K.
How does a vegan diet help the brain? Meat and other animal products contain saturated fat, which rapidly increases blood viscosity (“thickness”). The result, apparently, is diminished blood flow and poorer oxygenation. Plant foods provide beneficial antioxidants that can improve your health and lower your cholesterol, increasing the blood flow to your brain.
Endurance athletes have used vegan diets for many years, and those aiming for maximal cognitive function may want to choose them as well.
For more information on how a plant-based diet can boost brainpower and improve memory, visit PowerFoodsfortheBrain.org.
This week, we’re all counting down to the start of a new year. How was 2013 for you? Did you quit smoking or complete our 21-Day Vegan Kickstart? Did you improve your diet and kick your diabetes medications to the curb?
2013 was a big year for health-conscious people. So we’re counting down with this list of some of the major trends from 2013!
Hopefully everyone has a healthy, happy new year! Let’s keep the good habits rolling into 2014 and beyond. Here are a few of the noteworthy events of the year:
5 Healthy Trends
- Vegan Fast-Food Options: In February, Chipotle launched its plant-based Sofrita in the Bay Area. Due to popular demand, the test launch rapidly increased to include all of California. By October, the Sofrita had reached the East Coast! Subway also jumped on the vegan fast-food bandwagon and debuted a falafel sandwich at select East Coast locations. Dominos has also dipped their toe into the vegan international market, by releasing a vegan pizza in Israel.
- The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart: Our global Kickstart programs reached a total of 300,000 participants! Kickstart Japan was just added to the lineup of international Kickstart programs. All of the programs help reverse the problems of meat and dairy products with plant-based recipes and resources.
- Plant-Based Thanksgiving: After the release of the turkey-friendly movie Free Birds, The New York Times featured more than 600 vegetarian and vegan recipes in their Thanksgiving recipe database.
- Healthy School Lunches: P.S. 244Q in Queens, N.Y., won the grand prize in this year’s Golden Carrot Award with their completely vegetarian school cafeteria menu.
- Meatless Monday: This year, Meatless Monday marked their 10th anniversary! With schools, city councils, restaurants, and hospital across the globe participating in Meatless Mondays, the program is more popular than ever.
4 Vegan Celebrities
- Just in time for Thanksgiving, Al Gore transitioned to a plant-based diet—helping improve his health and the environment.
- Tia Mowry went public with how a vegan diet helped her get healthy—and start a family!
- For Jay Z’s 44th birthday, he and Beyoncé adopted a 22-day vegan diet. They frequented vegan restaurants, uploading photos to Instagram and promoting plant-based recipes. They started it as an experiment, but hopefully they’ll like it so much they’ll decide to put a ring on it.
- Santa Claus is vegetarian! At the prompting of his elves, Santa made the switch to a vegetarian diet so his belly no longer shakes like a bowl full of jelly.
3 Big Events
2 Innovative Food Inventions
- Treeline Cheese launched a hard nut cheese now available at grocery stores and restaurants across the country. Made of cashews and entirely plant-based, it is tangy, creamy, and cholesterol free.
- The first in-vitro burger debuted this year in the U.K. While meat is still an unhealthful food item, this advancement does remove the slaughter of animals and allows for the potential removal of the artery-clogging components.
1 New Book
- Power Foods for the Brain: In February, I released Power Foods for the Brain and gave talks all across the country. Along with our new PBS show on the same topic, we helped people learn how to use food to combat memory loss.
There were many more items we could have picked, and so much more coming for the new year!
Imagine you’re on an airplane. Your child is in the seat on your left. Your aging mother on your right. The plane hits some turbulence. You jostle in your seat. The plane hits significantly more turbulence, and the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling. You slip on your mask, as instructed. But then you look from your child to your mother, wondering which one to help first.
Nearly half of adults in the United States are in a parallel situation every day. They’re called the “Sandwich Generation.” These are moms and dads who are also caring for their moms and dads, many with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Between their children and their parents, these family caregivers carry the weight of their world on their shoulders.
So which one do you help first? Actually, you can help both at the same time. A simple diet change helps the whole family.
With this Saturday being World Alzheimer’s Day, it’s crucial for everyone—especially these sandwiched caregivers—to stop and think of how they can keep themselves from being another statistic in a world with rapidly increasing dementia rates, expected to nearly double every 20 years.
This past summer, the Physicians Committee hosted our first International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain. We identified seven lifestyle changes that can not only help prevent Alzheimer’s, but are also good for the heart. One of the best ways to boost brain power, prevent memory loss, and ward off Alzheimer’s is eating a diet rich in low fat, plant-based foods. It’s never too early or too late to focus on prevention and nutrition by utilizing the Dietary Guidelines for Alzheimer’s Prevention. Vegan diets are beneficial to both children and seniors and can help keep caregivers strong and focused as they navigate often harsh skies.
Everyday Health put together a wonderful infographic showing just how easy these seven steps are:
Once they are put into practice, these guidelines will help everyone from grade-schoolers to great-grandparents. And for the family caregivers, it’s extra important not to lose sight of your own health and to follow these steps toward Alzheimer’s prevention. Take a moment to put your oxygen mask on first, steer clear of meat and cheese, and breathe.