Let’s think about this: your brain is constantly working. It takes care of your thoughts, your movements, your breathing, even your heartbeat. It works hard. It works 24 hours a day- even when you’re sleeping! This means that your brain needs a constant supply of fuel. This “fuel” comes from the foods you eat, and what you eat can make a HUGE difference in the way you think and feel. There have been numerous studies linking diets high in refined sugar as being harmful to the brain. Refined sugars promote inflammation and oxidative stress throughout your body, and that’s a “no-no’ when it comes to healthy aging and healthy brains.
You may have heard of the Mediterranean diet, but have you ever heard of the MIND diet? U.S. News’ annual diet rankings have it listed as the top three best ways to eat to keep your brain and heart healthy. According to a study by Rush University Medical Center, the MIND diet has proven to cut an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by an average of 50%! The study showed that people who stuck with this “diet” lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 54%, but what’s more amazing is that people who followed the diet only part of the time still cut their risk by a whopping 35%!
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It specifically includes foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain. It is thought that the MIND diet can reduce brain shrinkage that comes naturally with age. The MIND diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, with a few exceptions. It doesn’t suggest that you eat multiple servings of fish per week–one serving should do because one serving of fish per week has been linked to better brain health, but more than one serving, not so much. And the MIND diet doesn’t suggest that you eat fruit other than berries (blueberries in particular are encouraged). The MIND diet is a lifestyle change not a temporary diet. It doesn’t have a daily calorie limit or goal to meet, doesn’t require specific timings for each meal, doesn’t have strict rules about snacking, and doesn’t eliminate any food groups! Hooray!
If you want to up your odds of staying mentally sharp as you age, than the MIND diet is worth considering. In the MIND diet you eat foods from these 10 food groups:
Green leafy veggies (spinach, kale, or salad greens)
Other veggies (at least once a day)
Nuts (five x per week)
Berries (two or more servings per week)
Beans (three servings per week)
Whole grains (three or more servings per day)
Fish (once per week)
Poultry (chicken/turkey two times per week)
Olive Oil (use it as your main cooking oil)
Red wine (one glass per day)
Try to limit your consumption of red meat, fried foods, cheese, butter, and pastries and sweets to one to two servings per week. Remember, diet only plays part of the role in keeping your brain and body healthy as you age. Get regular exercise, manage your stress, and get adequate sleep as well.