Brain Food

It’s Cristin’s turn to answer a question that was recently sent in as part of our Ask-a- Wellness-Question challenge: Are there foods that will help in preventing dementia?

In short, yes! Our understanding of the connection between nutrition and brain health is still growing, but what we know so far is best summarized in the recommendations of the MIND diet, developed in 2015. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, which both emphasize vegetables and fruit, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, while limiting red meat, saturated fats, and sweets.

The MIND diet recommendations are simple. They consist of a list of 10 foods to eat often, and a list of 5 foods to limit. The 10 foods are those that have the most compelling research evidence behind them for their role in preventing dementia. Those foods, along with the minimum number of servings recommended, include:

  1. Green, leafy vegetables: 6 servings per week
  2. Other vegetables: At least one additional serving per day
  3. Berries: 2 servings per week
  4. Nuts: 5 servings per week
  5. Olive oil: Use as your primary cooking oil
  6. Whole grains: 3 servings per day
  7. Fish: 1 serving per week
  8. Beans: 4 servings per week
  9. Poultry: 2 servings per week
  10. Wine: 1 glass (5 oz) red wine per day

By having a daily salad, cooking with olive oil, and snacking on nuts, you’re already well on your way to meeting the recommendations for a healthy brain!

The 5 foods to limit include:

  1. Butter and margarine: Less than 1 Tbsp daily
  2. Cheese: Less than once per week
  3. Red meat: No more than 3 times per week (includes beef, lamb, and pork)
  4. Fried food: Less than once per week
  5. Pastries and sweets: Less than 4 times per week

These foods contain a high amount of trans and/or saturated fats, which have been shown to increase beta-amyloid protein levels in the brains of mice, and contribute to higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies, all of which raise risk for Alzheimer’s.

I have to admit that limiting cheese to less than once per week feels unrealistic to me, especially with a toddler in the house whose diet some days consists of pretty much nothing but cheese! But the good news for me, and for all of us, is that risk of Alzheimer’s disease may be reduced even when the MIND diet recommendations are followed only moderately. One observational study showed a 53% decrease in risk of Alzheimer’s when the MIND diet recommendations were followed very closely, but still a 35% decrease in risk when participants met only some of the diet recommendations. So I’m not saying goodbye to my Gouda just yet. I’ll focus on the other 14 foods for now!

On a different note, if you missed our Halting Hypertension webinar series, don’t fret! Watch the recordings (approximately 30 min each) and take the quizzes before June 28th and you can still earn incentive points for viewing. Plus, if you watch all four, you will be entered into a drawing for a wireless blood pressure monitor and a healthy cookbook!

Link to Webinar Recordings

Week 1: Blood Pressure Basics QUIZ

Week 2: Nutrition Strategies QUIZ

Week 3: Exercise Recommendations QUIZ

Week 4: Stress Management QUIZ

Happy Eating (for your brain and heart)!

Cristin