A diet built for better brain health

Did you know that March 14 – 20 is Brain Awareness Week? Researchers are finding that healthy lifestyle choices, such as adequate sleep, plenty of exercise, stress management and mindfulness, can increase your brain quality by as much as 60 percent. One of the most impactful choices for retention and prevention, it turns out, is nutrition.

Diet has long been linked to our overall health, but one diet in particular is now gaining attention for warding off dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, and the premise is fairly simple.

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Avoid these 5 unhealthy foods: 

  • Red meats – limit to once a week
  • Butter and stick margarine – limit to 1 tablespoon a day
  • Cheese –limit to once a week
  • Pastries and sweets – less than 5 times a week
  • Fried or fast food – limit to once a week

Developed by Martha Clare Morris, PhD, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, and her colleagues, the MIND diet is based on information gathered from years of research about the effects foods and nutrients have on brain function over time. “This new research is just one more tool for our arsenal,” Kathy Wehrle, RDN, community outreach dietician said, “which can help us lead full, productive, long lives.”

Morris and her colleagues have found that Alzheimer's disease, which takes a devastating toll on cognitive function, is much like heart disease in the way behavioral, environmental and genetic components play into the condition.

“With late-onset AD, genetic risk factors are a small piece of the picture,” Morris said. Past studies have yielded evidence that suggests that what we eat may play a significant role in determining who gets AD and who doesn’t,” Morris said.

Consistency is key, so the longer you adopt these eating habits the more benefit you stand to gain. Stay social, get an adequate amount of rest, exercise regularly, try new things often and be mindful of the ingredients you put on your plate. “Maximizing brain health with simple lifestyle measures can go far in reducing stress and offering peace of mind,” Kathy said. It’s certainly something to keep in mind as you menu plan, and a great way to keep your brain capable and strong. 

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