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Nutrition Notes: Nutrition for a Healthy Brain

Nutritionist Karen LentnerNutritionist Karen Lentner

Did you know that eating certain foods may decrease your risk of dementia? We often associate forgetfulness and a decline in brain function with normal signs of aging. It doesn’t have to be inevitable. In fact, there is a lot you can do to maintain a healthy mind and body. Good nutrition is a key factor in healthy aging, and making simple changes to your diet can make a difference.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Rush University Medical School have found that older adults who follow the “MIND” diet have decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

What is the “MIND” diet?

The word MIND actually stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or the DASH diet.

The MIND diet recommends eating more of these foods:

  • Green Leafy Vegetables. Include spinach, kale, and cabbage 6 or more times per week.
  • All Other Vegetables. Include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc., at least once per day. Try eating a salad every day.
  • Berries. Eat berries at least twice per week.
  • Nuts. Try to consume five or more servings of nuts each week.
  • Olive Oil. Use olive oil as your primary cooking or salad oil.
  • Whole Grains. Include at least three servings daily including oatmeal, 100% whole wheat bread, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta.
  • Fish. Choose salmon, trout, mackerel, or sardines at least once a week.
  • Beans. Include lentils, chickpeas, and all beans at least three times per week.
  • Poultry. Choose chicken or turkey at least twice weekly.
  • Wine, but no more than one glass per day.

If it is unrealistic to consume the recommended number of servings listed above, eat what you can as all changes are positive changes for brain health.

“Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Rush University Medical School have found that older adults who follow the ‘MIND’ diet have decreased their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

The MIND diet also recommends avoiding or consuming less of the following foods:

  • Red Meat and Processed Foods (and less salt).
  • Cheese.
  • Butter or Margarine. Use less than one tablespoon per day; try olive oil instead.
  • Fried Foods.
  • Pastries, Sweets, and Refined Grains (such as white bread).

Other positive lifestyle changes for brain health include exercise such as walking to increase the blood supply to your brain. Try solving a crossword puzzle or Sudoku to help improve your ability to concentrate and pay attention. If you are overweight, consider reducing your total daily calories by 200 or more per day, or simply replacing a sweet dessert or candy with berries, fruit, or an extra-large serving of vegetables. Try nuts, raw vegetables, or fruit for a snack instead of potato chips. If you can, make small, realistic changes every week. Every change is a step towards a healthy body and brain.

Consider joining us for a healthy meal at one of our dining centers (find a complete list here), or call LifePath to set up Meals on Wheels at 413-773-5555.