Studies indicate that the MIND diet protects brain health. It consists of foods like vegetables, berries and fish — oh and also wine.
Ever wondered what food is good for thought? An emerging dietary approach could improve cognitive function in aging individuals. It combines two approaches: the Mediterranean diet which is associated with longevity and improved brain function, and another diet, the DASH Diet [Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension], aimed at reducing high blood pressure and hypertension.
Called the MIND diet, this approach was associated with better cognitive function, irrespective of whether or not they showed Alzheimer’s pathology post-mortem in a group of 569 older individuals according to a study published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Based on detailed dietary assessments, each individual was scored based on their adherence to a MIND diet. The results from this study indicate that while the diet didn’t alter brain pathology, nutrition may play a role in preventing cognitive decline and supporting brain resiliency. What foods should we be eating more of?
1. Green leafy vegetables
Foods like kale, spinach, and cabbage are rich in multiple nutrients including vitamin E, folate, β-carotene, lutein-zeaxanthin and flavonoids. All of these micronutrients are linked to better cognitive functioning in humans.
Other popular leafy greens include:
- Turnip greens
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
Berries make for excellent additions to oatmeal, salads, and trail mixes; a handful is also a fantastic, healthy snack filled with micronutrients. Berries contain many antioxidant compounds that may boost cognition, even shortly after consumption. Many studies in rats and mice show that these compounds may also protect brain cells from damage and even increase the production of new brain cells.
Fish are a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Eating fish is linked with a slower cognitive decline, with 380 mg/day of EPA and DHA associated with a modest cognitive improvement in the mini-mental state examination test. Try switching out red meat for fish a few times a week to make your dinner or lunch healthier. (That said, eating omega-3 brain health supplements hasn’t quite proven to have the same effect.)
4. Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are excellent sources of plant protein, fiber, iron, folate, and other micronutrients. In a study of more than 75,000 people, a higher intake of beans or legumes was associated with a reduction in subjective cognitive decline. Additionally, substituting five percent of animal protein for plant protein was also associated with a reduction in subjective cognitive decline. Beans and legumes make excellent sides and easy-to-make snacks.
Research is all over the map when it comes to alcohol and brain health. Drinking — especially heavy drinking and bing drinking — has been linked to cognitive decline and other bad brain health outcomes. So wine certainly makes this particular list with the qualifier, “Everything in moderation.” But there are reasons to imagine why a little wine here and there might be beneficial to the brain: Like berries and tea, red wine contains many nutrients with antioxidant properties, which may protect the brain from damage — including flavonols, which have been linked in some studies to dramatically lower dementia risk. Accordingly, a review of multiple studies found that a light-to-moderate consumption of wine (one to four glasses daily) was associated with improved cognitive performance in humans. Of course, there are other studies that have found the opposite. This brings us back to the tough truth about the science around what we eat and whether or not we eventually develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia:
At the end of the day, however, mounting evidence does suggest that a heart- and brain-healthy diet moves the dial in the right direction when it comes to preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.