Welcome to Brain Health Kitchen! Let’s cook up a plan to wipe out Alzheimer’s.
Welcome! I’m Annie Fenn, a physician and chef who specializes in cooking for brain health. I created Brain Health Kitchen to show you all the ways to take care of your brain, based on the latest science.
Worried about your brain?
Why am I so worried about your brain? Brain health is an incredibly important issue because of a simple fact: We are living longer than ever before. The Baby Boomer generation —those born between 1946 and 1964 — is maturing into “older” age in record numbers. As these baby boomers get into their 60s, 70s, and 80s, they will create an epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease. By 2025, one in nine 65-year olds will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Half of all 85-year olds will have dementia. And women are especially vulnerable to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s: Two-thirds of all Alzheimer’s victims are female, as are two-thirds of dementia caregivers.
Alzheimer’s disease threatens to be the biggest health challenge our country has every faced.
Dementia-Proof your brain
But there’s good news, too. We used to think that cognitive decline was an inevitable consequence of getting older. Not much you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s, right? Wrong! We now know that Alzheimer’s evolves over decades because of the unique interaction between our lifestyle choices and our genetic makeup. Studies show that by modifying certain lifestyle factors, we can prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline. We’re talking about factors that we actually have the power to change — like how we think, exercise, sleep, cope with stress, and eat. That’s exciting news, especially for those of us with a family history of dementia. And so far research indicates those with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s may benefit the most from food and lifestyle changes.
Up to 50% (and maybe more) of Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented or delayed if we just took better care of our brains. That’s where Brain Health Kitchen comes in. I am here to help you cultivate a resilient, healthy, nourished brain.
Sorting brain health fact from fiction
Suddenly, it seems, we are in the midst of an explosion of new information about how the brain ages, what keeps it sharp, and why it declines. And, just as suddenly, there are recommendations about what you should do to prevent Alzheimer’s. Sorting medical fact from fiction can be difficult.
Should we be vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian? What about the paleolithic diet? Or the ketogenic one? Nutrition can be complicated, but eating for brain health is not. Brain Health Kitchen examines the science behind how food impacts the brain and gives recommendations based on the latest science.
Instead of eliminating entire food groups or imposing a long list of rules regarding how we should eat, we only need to ask ourselves one question: Is it good for my brain or not?
As a physician, I am here to help you wade through the growing number of claims about how to protect your brain. (Spoiler alert: No supplement has been proven to stave off Alzheimer’s or dementia.) My recommendations are based on evidence-based scientific studies. More information pours in each day from reliable medical journals about which factors help reduce Alzheimer’s risk, and which ones contribute to cognitive decline.
Brain Health: Not just for old people
You may be wondering, Am I too young to be worrying about my brain? After all, everyone misplaces keys now and then, and struggles to retrieve someone’s name. Isn’t Alzheimer’s an old person’s disease? Consider this: Researchers are detecting the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s — the buildup of amyloid protein — in the brains of 30-year-olds. We used to think Alzheimer’s began in the sixth decade of life. Now we know Alzheimer’s starts twenty to thirty years before the first memory lapse. We know that suffering a concussion early in life puts us at risk for dementia later. We know that those who don’t have access to early child education are at a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s. And, that certain genetic mutations predispose people to Alzheimer’s in their forties, fifties, and even their thirties.
Brain health is crucial for everyone, regardless of age.
Simply put, Brain Health Kitchen is an entirely new way to think about how we eat.
For the last two years I have taught hundreds of motivated students all over the country and abroad how to cook and eat to reduce their risk of dementia.
Cooking for brain health is both an art and a science. I am constantly scouring the scientific literature for evidence that certain foods have a positive impact on the aging brain. Brain Health Kitchen recipes are created to include as many nutrient-dense ingredients as possible. We swap out inflammatory foods for anti-inflammatory ones. (There is more and more evidence that Alzheimer’s disease is created by chronic inflammation in the brain.) My students learn cooking techniques that maintain the brain healthy integrity of the foods, such as how to cook with olive oil, increase cruciferous vegetables, and replace dairy products with luscious nut milks, creams and cheese.
As a chef, I put my culinary experience to work to create beautiful, crave-worthy recipes that will be a cinch for you to make at home. Together we use modern techniques and tweaks to pack brain healthy nutrient density into every bite. Over time, we build up a repertoire of recipes that are meant to be shared and enjoyed.
Eating more brain healthy foods lengthens brainspan, the number of years the brain functions at a high level.
We’re not sacrificing delicious for healthy just because it’s brain food.
My favorite thing about eating for brain health is how satisfying and delicious it is. If you love food like I do, we are going to have a lot of fun exploring a whole new world of brain healthy ingredients. (Try this Socca Chickpea Pancake (recipe below) and discover why chickpea flour is one of my favorite brain healthy ingredients.)
If you don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen, that’s ok too. My recipes are designed to help busy people eat better. Brain Health Kitchen is packed with easy recipes made with brain healthy foods you’ll want to eat every day.
Because what good is healthy food if you don’t want to eat it?
Goal: Close the gap between brainspan and lifespan.
We still don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s, how to cure it, or how to truly prevent it. But there is a growing body of data that shows we can delay cognitive decline by many years, even decades. I like to think of it like this: Maybe I am genetically programmed to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s at the age of 75. But if I pay attention to the factors that slow cognitive decline, I can put off a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s until I am much older, maybe even at the end of my lifespan.
The time I buy will enable me to enjoy my family (maybe I’ll have some grandchildren!) and the things I love to do. In the meantime, I’ll thrive as I age because I will continue to be engaged in the world around me. Delay, delay, delay. That is the name of the game with Alzheimer’s.
As one of my Brain Health Kitchen students told me: “You’re not just giving us recipes, Annie. You are giving us hope.“
I created Brain Health Kitchen for you — my cooking students, patients, friends, family, fellow food enthusiasts and Baby Boomers. The Brain Health Kitchen is for you to use and to share with everyone you love. Together we will learn to eat well, age well, and take good care of our brains. Together we will formulate a plan for making brainspan as long as lifespan. Because I plan to be thriving at the age of 100, and I want you all right there with me.
By learning to eat and cook with the foods proven to prevent Alzheimer’s, we can be part of the solution to wipe out Alzheimer’s.
Join our community of brain healthy foodies!
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Follow along on Instagram @BrainHealthKitchen and tag your brain healthy creations with #BrainHealthKitchen.
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Tweet at me on Twitter @AnnieFennMD.
Pin your favorite recipes over in the wide world of Pinterest.
Not so keen on social media? You can reach out to me via email: email@example.com.
But do keep in touch. Let me know how the recipes turn out, what you love and don’t love, and what you want to learn more about. Share what you are creating in your own kitchen. And I want to hear everything else you are doing to keep your brain healthy.
Thank you for being here. Together we can look forward to a delicious future free of dementia.