It is no secret that choosing healthier foods can help you feel better, lose weight and improve your chances in the fight against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, but what about your brain? Many of us wonder if there are powerhouse foods that protect us against memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
While the science of brain nutrition is a fairly new and emerging field, the findings of most of the recent studies are not surprising. The majority of “brain protective” foods also top the lists in the heart-protective foods list as well as those that help prevent obesity and diabetes. As a matter of fact, researchers have just launched a new study called the MIND diet to look at the effects of a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension).
Based on these recent studies the National Institute on Aging recommends that we choose more vegetables, fruits, beans, fish, lean meats and poultry, 100% whole grains and low-fat dairy products. They also recommend a reduction of refined carbs, sugars, animal fats and salt from fried foods, pastries, sodas and prepackaged foods.
So what are the powerhouse foods? The list is long so you can be happy that there is a great variety of foods to choose from:
1. Green leafy veggies such as kale, spinach, collard greens and mustard greens can have a huge impact on brain health. The recommended amount is 2 servings per week, but recent studies show 6 or more servings/week can have the greatest impact on your brain.
2. Fish. Particularly fatty fish such as salmon, but be aware that larger fish (such as mackerel, tuna, and halibut) can have a higher mercury content so go easy on those.
3. Nuts. Any kind of nuts are good, but if you have hypertension or any kidney issues choose unsalted nuts. Also be aware of those that are roasted in corn oil. Not as healthy as other oils.
4. Seeds. Also the same applies to seeds as for nuts, but there are quite a few seeds that you can add as additions to your foods and smoothies such as flax, chia and sesame seeds. Also, some of the smaller seeds have such tough shells that they need to be ground or roasted before eating to get the full nutritional benefit.
5. 100% whole grains, not just whole grains, but look for foods that say 100% whole grains, that means that no white flour or refined grains are added. When a grain is left whole it includes the bran and the germ, where the nutrients are housed. Those vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients are the brain’s shield against the destruction of the healthy cells.
6. A glass of red wine might just protect your brain too. But ask your doctor if that is something that might help you or if it is better left alone.
What are the foods to avoid you might ask? Your brain suffers from the same unhealthy foods as the rest of your body. Sugar and saturated fats such as margarine, lard or other hydrogenated oils appear to be the worst for your brain. Fatty meats, high-fat dairy foods and fried meats and pastries certainly don’t help and can contribute to other health issues.
Bunny Foxhoven is an accredited Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with the American Dietetic Association and is a Certified Diabetes Educator with the American Association of Diabetes Educators.Posts and blogs created by Bunny on the Wealth Meet Health community are for informational purposes only and are not meant to take the place of your relationship with a health professional. For personal health considerations, please consult a health professional directly.
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