Did you know that eating certain foods and skipping others has the power to slow brain aging by 7.5 years and even reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s? With June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to learn how to protect and even sharpen our brains through what we put in our bodies.
The MIND diet, or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, was developed by medical researchers with the goal to reduce the risk of dementia and loss of brain function as you age. These medical researchers developed the MIND diet by combining two well-known diets, the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet, to create a way of eating the helped combat inflammation markers in the body while protecting and boosting overall brain health. They found that the food we eat has a major role in combatting oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. A diet high in antioxidants and polyphenols was most effective at fighting inflammation and providing a protective environment to support brain health. With that in mind, what exactly should we be focusing on when adopting the MIND diet?
Leafy greens like kale, collard greens, and spinach are packed with vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Even just one serving a day has been shown to slow brain aging – time to order that kale salad!
Berries like strawberries and blueberries are great sources of flavonoids. Flavonoids are the natural plant pigments that give berries their beautiful hues. Those who consume two or more servings per week showed the slowest rates of cognitive decline. Savor these sweet treats by the handful or in a brain-boosting smoothie!
Nuts like almonds and walnuts are rich in vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin, which is known for its brain boosting qualities. When you reach for nuts to snack on, be sure to check the ingredients panel and grab dry-roasted or raw nuts to steer clear of excess sodium, sugars, and oils. Same goes for nut butters – look for lists that only include the nut and salt, skip the hydrogenated oils.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – you’ve heard it time and time again, but this is not only the go-to oil for heart health but also for brain health! When shopping for a quality extra virgin olive oil, look for an opaque or dark glass bottle to avoid any additional light oxidation. Also skip any options that are labeled as ‘light’ – that means the oil went through refining processes due to an off odor or even low-quality fruit therefore decreasing the overall quality of the final oil!
Meat-free meals like eating legumes and lentils in place of beef or pork has been shown to be quite beneficial for the brain. Not only do these meat-free protein alternatives pack a fiber punch but they also slow the rate of digestion and support a health GI tract (mind gut connection anyone?) and studies have shown that those who had the lowest intake of legumes had the highest rates of cognitive decline. Maybe the old jingle ‘beans, beans, the magical fruit’ was really onto something…
Fatty Fish like salmon or tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. These healthy unsaturated fats have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid – or the proteins that form damaging clumps in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Wine – Another Mediterranean trend coming through here but light to moderate drinking could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by two to three years. How so? Alcohol affects blood flow making it less ‘sticky’ and in turn less prone to dangerous clotting. With the risks associated with alcohol, don’t pick up a drinking habit in hopes of benefiting your brain. But if you do enjoy a drink with dinner, limit yourself to that one drink and you could be doing your brain and future mind a favor.