Brain-Healthy Diet: Foods That Can Help Your Mind

Ever heard the saying “You are what you eat”? Turns out that the food choices you make may powerfully impact the health of your brain. That’s the takeaway from recent research, which has found that certain diets may help you reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Here’s what you should know about the foods that can help you stay sharp as you get older.

Your brain is a metabolically active organ, which means it requires a lot of nutrients – like vitamins and minerals – to function optimally, says Bethany Thayer, registered dietitian nutritionist and director of the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Detroit. However, it’s easier to focus on eating more of certain foods than trying to get specific nutrients into your diet.

“You hear things about eating more B and E vitamins for your brain, for example, but we don’t eat nutrients – we eat food,” Thayer says.

Your brain’s preferred energy source is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates. The types of carbs, protein and fat you eat can affect your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes – and affect your brain function.

So far, three diets have been associated with reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline:

Number 1The Mediterranean diet

“The Mediterranean diet focuses on the best of that region’s eating patterns,” Thayer says. “It’s a diet that tends to be plant-based, although what people remember is that you’re allowed to have some wine – five ounces a day.” The diet is built around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts, and uses olive oil and other healthy fats while limiting saturated fats.

Number 2The DASH diet

The DASH (“Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension”) diet also is plant-based and includes more vegetables and fruits than the typical American diet. It includes low-fat and nonfat dairy, lean meats, fish and poultry, healthy fats and nuts. It limits salt and saturated fat.

Number 3The MIND diet

The MIND (“Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay”) diet was developed by researchers who looked at the other two diets and created a plan that includes specific foods linked with brain health, including fish; green, leafy vegetables; and berries. “The MIND diet basically takes the best of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and combines them,” Thayer explains. Research has found that people who follow the MIND diet can substantially slow cognitive decline with age.

Eating More Brain Boosters

The MIND diet includes 10 foods you should eat more of and five foods to avoid. With the MIND diet, you eat green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and salad greens, six days a week and have at least one other serving of vegetables daily. The MIND diet also recommends eating berries at least twice a week; beans, at least three times a week; nuts, five times a week; fish, once a week; and poultry twice a week. You should use olive oil as your main cooking oil and you may have one glass of wine a day. Avoid or limit foods that can interfere with healthy brain function such as red meats, butter, cheese, pastry and sweets.

Best of all? You can make these changes immediately. “It’s never too late to start,” Thayer says. “Your brain cells are constantly dying off and being renewed and regrown … so the sooner you can get more of these healthy foods into your diet, the better.”

And that may be your smartest move of all.

Try a recipe that fits into all three diets:

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Honey-Soy Glazed Salmon in Under 25 Minutes

Salmon is a lean fish protein that fits into all three diets. Try this simple, delicious, and unbelievably good for you dish. The best part? It only takes 25 minutes.

Categories: Get Healthy

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