In an effort to keep the mind in shape as we age, a new eating pattern is emerging in the scientific community. The Mind Diet may slow the loss of brain function associated with aging and may limit the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Foods associated with brain health include antioxidants and phytochemical, such as resveratrol found in the skin of grapes. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins found in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, legumes and fish support overall brain function.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet trial, conducted by researchers at Rush University investigated the effect of a modified version of the Mediterranean and DASH diets and their effect on brain function.
Mind Diet Promising for Brain Function
The Mediterranean Diet consists of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and moderate red wine consumption and is associated with a lower incidence of heart disease and stroke.
The diet is considered to be heart protective due to its effect on decreasing LDL cholesterol or the “bad” cholesterol while increasing the HDL cholesterol the “good” cholesterol. Additionally, it may also improve blood glucose parameters, decreasing risk for diabetes.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is an eating plan that consists of vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meat, fish and poultry, and nuts and beans.
It is essentially considered an Americanized version of the Mediterranean Diet with the biggest difference being dairy. The diet benefits us by decreasing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and preventing diabetes with weight loss.
The benefits of the two diets are clear. But now their benefits on heart health are being extended to a reduction in dementia risk. The MIND diet is associated with a decrease in inflammation and a reduction in brain biomarkers for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Remember Your Greens & Berries
Vegetable intake has been associated with positive health benefits, but green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are most beneficial. Consumption of leafy greens six times a week is also encouraged for better brain function.
There is limited information regarding fruits, but berries are the exception. Blueberries and strawberries may improve memory performance and have been shown to decrease loss of neurons. Eat berries at least twice a week.
Eating the right types of fats found in nuts, seeds, plant oils and fish is important. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as herring, sardines, wild salmon, and albacore tuna are beneficial to brain function. Omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is part of the structure of the brain that controls memory, language, and attention.
People with cognitive impairment and smaller brains have been shown to exhibit low DHA levels. In addition, low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.
Fish isn’t the only beneficial fat food to think about. An ounce of walnuts or pumpkin seeds protects against inflammation and is associated with improved brain function. A serving of nuts five times a week is an easy snack. Avocados, rich in monounsaturated fat and folate, may also prevent development of Alzheimer’s.
Preventing cognitive decline may be as simple as more leafy greens, snacking on nuts and berries and adding fish weekly.
Alternately, limiting red meat, butter, cheese and sweets may prevent the damaging effects of inflammation on the brain.