Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA May 3, 2016
For decades, scientists have viewed food as fuel, but the latest research suggests what you eat impacts your brain, too. In fact, study after study suggests adding certain foods to your plate can sharpen your mind, build new brain cells and may even help you remember where you left your keys.
With that in mind (pun intended), researchers at Rush University in Chicago developed the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which is basically a combination of the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. The main difference: MIND stresses the importance of brain-boosting power foods, including nuts, berries and fatty fish. And research shows it’s remarkably effective.
According to the study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, seniors who closely followed the MIND diet slashed their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by a whopping 53 percent. Even those who only did a so-so job of following the plan had a 35 percent lower Alzheimer’s risk.
So, consider stocking up on these 7 brain-boosting staples to gain the MIND advantage:
1. Fish: This nutrient powerhouse boasts high-quality protein, important minerals, including iron and zinc, and heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show these powerful fats help reduce inflammation, increase blood flow to the brain and build new brain cells.
2. Olive oil: Thanks to a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats, olive oil is a simple and tasty way to boost brain cell activity and slow down an aging brain. A bonus: monounsaturated fats also help reduce plaque buildup on the inside of the arteries, ensuring your brain gets the blood it needs to perform at its best.
3. Nuts: Like olive oil, nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, but they also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant linked to improved brainpower.
4. Berries: An anti-aging superstar, berries are loaded with disease-fighting compounds that improve brain function. Blueberries in particular seem to slow down the memory loss that goes with aging.
5. Leafy green veggies: Research shows people who load up on produce, especially those with deep, rich colors, have better focus and mental sharpness compared to those who skimp on fruits and vegetables.
6. Wine: Don’t drink? There’s no reason to start. But if you enjoy an occasional glass of wine, go for red—it packs greater brain benefits than white. Just be sure to resist a refill. People become more susceptible to the toxic effects of alcohol with age.
7. Beans: Loaded with fiber and protein, beans provide sustained energy and keep blood-sugar levels on an even keel. That not only keeps hunger pangs at bay, but improves mental focus, too.
On the flip side, foods to limit or avoid due to their potentially harmful effects on your brain function include fatty red meat, butter or stick margarine, cheese, sweets, and fried or fast foods.
The takeaway? The MIND diet is similar to other successful, healthy eating plans in this important way — eating whole, minimally processed foods, free of added sugar, sodium and harmful fats, is key to both a healthy mind and body.