“You are what you eat” is a phrase we’ve all heard. And it’s true a nutritious diet can keep our bodies healthy and strong. But what about our brains? Is there any way to protect our brain from memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease as we age? The answer is yes! Researchers have discovered that a diet known as the “MIND diet” (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), a combination of the Mediterranean diet and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet may help to maintain healthy brain function as we age, decrease risk of memory loss and may even reduce the risk of Alzheimer disease. Scientists think it may work by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as beta-amyloid proteins, which are thought to be one of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND diet is easy to follow and focuses on 10 foods to eat more often, and 5 foods to eat less often. The “Eat More” foods include:
- Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, bok choy, and other greens because they are packed with nutrients such as folate, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids known to benefit brain health.
- Berries are rich in brain supportive flavonoids. In a 20-year study of over 16,000 older adults, those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rates of cognitive decline.
- All other vegetables such as carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, Brussels sprouts, and tomatoes.
- Fish, especially salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats
- Poultry such as skinless chicken or turkey, dark or white meat
- Whole grains rich in magnesium may help regulate glucose and serotonin (the feel-good hormone) in the brain
- Nuts, especially walnuts, almonds, and pecans. Nuts may be high in calories, but they’re packed with healthy fats and vitamin E, known for its brain-protective qualities. A handful a day is all you need.
- Beans or legumes such aslentils, chickpeas, black, kidney, pinto, or cannellini beans are high in protein and fiber, and B vitamins, which are important for brain health.
- Olive oil is rich in anti-inflammatory unsaturated fat – use it as your primary cooking oil, and avoid butter and margarine
- Red Wine contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant, however moderate intake of both red and white wine may have benefits for the brain.
The “Eat Less” foods include:
- Red meat,including beef, pork and lamb
- Fried foods
- Pastries and sweets, including ice cream, cookies, soda or other sweetened beverages
The good news is, the MIND diet is flexible and according to researchers, you only need to incorporate a couple of the above suggestions to reap the benefits of improved brain health!
(1) Adjibade, Moufidath, et al. “Prospective Association between Adherence to the MIND Diet and Subjective Memory Complaints in the French NutriNet-Santé Cohort.” Journal of Neurology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30706155.
(2) Improve Brain Health with the MIND Diet.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 July 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/improve-brain-health-with-the-mind-diet/art-20454746.
(3) Morris, Martha Clare, et al. “MIND Diet Slows Cognitive Decline with Aging.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia : the Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26086182.
(4) Morris, Martha Clare, et al. “MIND Diet Associated with Reduced Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Alzheimer’s Association, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 11 Feb. 2015, alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009.
(5) Pearson, Keith. “The MIND Diet: A Detailed Guide for Beginners.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/mind-diet.