It’s never too early to start caring for your brain health. Although genetics may play a large part in the health of your brain over time, researchers are finding that what we eat matters as well.
For example, according to Advances in Nutrition, there is a definite connection between what you eat and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, although researchers are still looking into the specifics of why this connection occurs. With information like this, we can focus on eating food that will help cognitive function in the long run, regardless of age.
But what foods are truly best for brain health, and is there a specific diet we can follow? When we asked Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, and a new member of our medical expert board, she said hands down the best diet for the brain is the MIND diet.
What is the MIND Diet?
“The MIND diet is an absolute win for your brain,” says Goodson.
Evidently, the research agrees with her completely. This fairly new eating plan was created by Martha Clare Morris as a result of a research study she led that observed elderly participants between the ages of 58 and 93. Since then, the MIND diet has been continually showing positive results with prolonging cognitive decline and lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Known as the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, MIND combines the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in healthy fats, vegetables, and whole grains with the DASH diet, which is designed to help stop hypertension (high blood pressure) and is loaded with fruits and vegetables,” says Goodson.
According to Rush University Medical Center, Morris’ findings revealed that the participants who “rigorously'” followed the diet decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by 53%, and those who followed it “moderately” lowered it by 35%.
The focus of the MIND diet is simply to eat foods that keep your brain healthy, and limit or stay away from the foods that don’t.
“MIND is designed to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation, which can ultimately have negative effects on the brain,” says Goodson.
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How to follow the MIND diet
According to Goodson, The MIND diet recommends including the following foods in your diet on a regular basis or as much as you can:
- Green leafy vegetables
- All other vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Wine (Yes, wine! In moderation, of course.)
According to Harvard Health, the foods that help your brain health are the same foods that are healthy for your heart, which is why we see a lot of the foods under the MIND diet consisting of healthy fats. For example, fatty fish like salmon and tuna are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For the MIND diet, it is recommended to get at least one serving of fish per week.
Nuts are another nutritious snack known to help the brain. According to a research study published in The Journal of Nutrition, daily intake of walnuts can help improve cognitive function.
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lays out some specifics for how often to eat these items if you’re following the MIND diet rigorously. You should stick to about three servings of whole grains each day, with at least one salad and another serving of veggies. They also recommend having chicken at least two times a week, and yep, a glass of red wine each day made the list!
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