Monmouth's Ask The Doctor March-April 2020

10 Foods that Will Boost Your Brain Health By Caryn Alter, MS, RD, FAND You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean diet, and if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pres- sure, you may have heard of the DASH diet. Combine the two and you get an eating plan designed to boost your brain health—among other benefits. How Our Diet Affects Our Brains


As you age, it’s more difficult for important nerve cells to protect themselves against volatile free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells. Many of the foods listed below contain antioxi- dants or phytonutrients that neutralize free radicals, staving off age-re- lated degenerative diseases, including mental decline. The Mediterranean diet helps keep aging brains sharp because it em- phasizes eating foods that have been found to improve brain function, alertness, and memory. The eating plan includes extra virgin olive oil; legumes, such as peas, beans, and lentils; unrefined cereals; fruits; and vegetables. It also includes moderate to high amounts of fish, moderate amounts of dairy, such as cheese and yogurt, and wine. The plan allows very limited amounts of meat and meat products. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet limits sodium and overall fat intake. There is strong evidence this plan reduces high blood pressure due to its emphasis on whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and low-sodium foods. However, when an epidemiologist combined the best aspects of each diet to develop the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurode- generative Delay, or MIND diet, the results were significant. In a 2015 study, participants were assigned scores based on their eat- ing habits. Those who most closely followed the food recommendations of the MIND diet received the highest scores. Participants whose scores

ranked in the top third had a 53 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with those with the lowest scores. Researchers concluded that the hybrid MIND diet plan produced better brain protective properties than either the Mediterranean or DASH diets alone. A Shopping List for Brain Health The following foods have been shown to improve brain health and/or protect against cognitive decline: 1. Green leafy vegetables (examples: arugula, kale, and spinach) 2. Other nutrient-dense vegetables (examples: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, & zucchini) 3. Whole grains (examples: brown and wild rice, oats, popcorn, quinoa) 4. Vegetable oils (examples: canola, corn, olive, sesame) 5. Berries (examples: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries) 6. Nuts (examples: almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts) 7. Seafood (examples: herring, lake trout, salmon, sardines, tuna) 8. Poultry (examples: skinless chicken. skinless turkey) 9. Beans and Other Legumes (examples: kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, tofu) 10. Dairy (examples: fat-free and low-fat milk and yogurt) Foods with Possible Brain Benefits to Consume in Moderation . Some foods and drinks have beneficial properties, but should be consumed in moderation, including:




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