Wednesday, May 13, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Alzheimer's Disease and Diabetes

"Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."  --Nelson Mandela

Last week I was talking with someone about Growing Healthy Kids' projects to reverse childhood obesity and the economic consequences of NOT preventing diabetes in kids who are overweight.  He shared that his parents had Alzheimer's disease and diabetes and that he had just been diagnosed with prediabetes.  His questions quickly became an expression of his concern and worry that he, too, will develop Alzheimer's disease.

As we talked about the link between diabetes and Alzheimer's, he soon asked how to prepare plant-based dinners.  Of course, I was happy to make suggestions.   We talked about how he could easily create a foil packet filled with vegetables such as zuccini, sweet potatoes, and red peppers (one of my favorite combinations) tossed with a little olive oil, a couple of garlic cloves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to roast on the oven or on the grill.  Add quinoa and a serving of some fresh, seasonal fruit and you have a most delicious, healthy, AND economical meal!   I keep a bottle of Bragg Liquid Aminos on the table to use for seasoning foods like quinoa and veggies (and adding a nutritional kick).  

Is there a connection between disease and food?  Absolutely yes.  Children, like adults, do best when they eat small meals and snacks often.  A snack can be some avocado mashed up with a little lime juice and sea salt on a slice of whole grain bread or some almond butter on a couple of slices of apple.  Is there a connection between brain health and food?  Absolutely, yes.

Are your children getting healthy foods and snacks every day?  Foods filled with added sugars, salt and fats are, unfortunately, part of a disease-laden SAD  (Standard American Diet).  The SAD diet has gotten us unhealthy kids (1 in 3 kids age 2 and older is overweight or obese) plus very expensive diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's that affect more people each year and get more expensive. Think we are paying a lot for health (read: disease) care now?  Just wait five years.  Think it is expensive to eat well?  Try getting sick.

Who wants to eat SAD foods when there is so much more health to be gained (and money to be saved when you prevent disease) from eating fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, oils like olive oil, and fish.  After all, the brain is 70% fat and gets most of the fat it needs from foods, like olive oil, avocados, fish, walnuts and soy foods, according to Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at New York University's Cener for Musculoskeletal Care and Sports Performance.  "These healthy fats have been shown to improve cognitive function and brain health." Heller said.  "Conversely, research suggests that eating unhealthy fats like trans fats found in processed foods, and saturated fats in animal foods accelerated cognitive decline, poor memory, and is linked with an increased risk of dementia."

Learning to eat well is something all families should make a priority.  If you have a question about how to help your kids eat better that you would like me to discuss on "Pop Up Health with Nancy Heinrich", my weekly radio show with Chef Michael Glatz from La Patisserie Vero Beach, just send an email to  Come on, let's change the world together!

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder of Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.