A healthy diet may just keep your brain healthy too. Studies show that eating foods that are good for your brain may slow cognitive decline and reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have been looking into the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). It’s specifically designed to keep the brain healthy; and the results have been quite promising. This “brain diet” focuses on an overall eating pattern that includes specific types of foods that optimize brain health. Rather than counting calories, the goal is to consume brain-boosting foods while limiting those that sap your smarts.
Taking the principles of the well known Mediterranean and DASH diets (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the MIND diet adds more foods with neuro-protective compounds — like blueberries, pomegranates and raspberries. The goal is to protect against brain diseases by eating foods from the 10 brain healthy food groups while limiting foods from the 5 unhealthy food groups.
The 10 Brain-Healthy “Food Groups” that help protect and fuel the brain include:
1. Green leafy vegetables- Research suggests brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene may help slow cognitive decline.
2. Other vegetables - Antioxidant and flavonoid-rich foods like carrots, celery and cucumbers are associated with lower cognitive decline.
3. Nuts - Walnuts are especially high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid which is linked to brain health.
4. Berries - Studies show that flavonoids which give berries their brilliant hues help improve memory.
5. Beans - High in protein, carbohydrates, anti-oxidants and minerals, this super food fuels brain functions like thinking, memory, and learning.
6. Whole grains - A “complete package” of benefits and rich in B vitamins whole grains reduce inflammation of the brain, potentially preserving your memory.
7. Fish - Incredibly important for brain function, fresh fish is an abundant source of omega-3 fatty acids.
8. Poultry - Chicken contains choline and the B vitamins to provide neuroprotective benefits.
9. Olive oil - Antioxidants in extra virgin olive oil have been shown to reverse age- and disease-related learning and memory deficits.
10. Wine - A large Harvard study found that women who drank between ½ an ounce and 1 ounce of alcohol per day were more likely to remain free of chronic illness and memory loss as they aged.
The 5 Brain-Risk “Food Groups” to avoid or limit include:
Vinson Hall Retirement Community’s Smart Approach to Meal Planning
At VHRC, our dining team strives to support all variety of interests and diets. Each week VHRC’s dietician, Margaret Radzikowski, reviews the weekly menu and makes notations next to the meal options that are the healthy choice. “For residents who are following the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet, we have options every day and at every meal that fulfill the requirements of these diets. We strive to make sure the menu has options to please and suit everyone, and we are always open to recommendations and suggestions,” said Margaret.
Additionally, each month Margaret along with VHRC’s executive chef Nik Chanthanvisouk present an educational nutrition seminar. This seminar series, called Eating Well=Aging Well, is designed to provide insight into nutrition recommendations for older adults and offer participants a taste of healthy cooking. The topic for October’s seminar was “Go for Fish Fuel” and shared the value of including fish, which is high in brain-boosting omega-3, in the diet. Attendees also enjoyed delicious samples, including shrimp cocktail, lobster salad, grilled salmon and pan-seared scallops. After the seminars, Chef Nik adds the popular – and healthy – items to the menu.
“Eating healthy can be delicious,” said Margaret. “The goal of our seminars and of our dining program as a whole is to ensure that our residents have the tools they need to eat healthy, age well, and enjoy!”