A healthy diet can make a noticeable difference in your health, especially when it comes to your brain. A balanced diet with lots of vegetables, healthy fats and protein keeps both the body and the brain healthy. But did you know that there is a specific diet that has been shown to have a positive impact on your brain health? It is called the MIND diet (Mediterranean DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). Studies show following the MIND diet can help prevent cognitive and memory deterioration over time. In one study, the diet resulted in a 7.5-year cognitive difference between people who followed the diet closely and those who didn’t.
The MIND diet recommends 10 foods you should eat more. The following are the types of food you should try to eat as often as you can to help your brain.
- Green leafy vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are among the best foods when it comes to brain health because they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These include leafy greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce. It is recommended to eat at least one serving per day.
- Other vegetables
Leafy greens aren’t the only type of important vegetable in the MIND diet. It includes pretty much every vegetable you can think of, from broccoli to beetroot to eggplant. The choice is yours.
- Whole Grains
Whole grains are high in B vitamins, which can reduce inflammation in the brain and improve overall health. You can choose from numerous whole grain products such as oats, pasta, quinoa, brown rice and whole grain bread. It would be particularly beneficial to replace two to three servings of processed carbohydrates (such as pasta, white bread, plain rice, etc.) with whole grains per day.
- Olive oil
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and phenolic compounds, which have been linked to better memory and brain health. Use olive oil as your main cooking oil instead of vegetable oil or butter.
- Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are another source of healthy fats that are beneficial for brain function. It’s recommended to eat nuts such as walnuts, almonds, or sunflower seeds at least five times a week.
Another way to keep your brain cells healthy is to eat berries. Berries contain powerful antioxidants and other compounds that protect your brain cells from damage.
- Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are a rich source of fiber and protein, which fuel your brain. Scientists aren’t sure why, but in all “blue zones,” or regions in the world where people live longer than average, beans are a key part of the diet.
Fish contains large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which in turn increase blood flow to the brain. Likewise, omega-3 fatty acids are associated with increased cognitive ability. Although fish fingers are unfortunately not one of the recommended products, you can easily use fresh or canned fish such as tuna or sardines. Try to eat fish about once per week.
- Chicken or turkey
There are two types of poultry you should eat about twice a week: chicken and turkey. Both are considered a high quality source of lean protein, B vitamins and choline. Choline is considered to be an extremely important nutrient for the brain and memory.
- Wine or grape juice
Consuming about one glass of wine per day helps prevent cognitive decline. Studies have shown that small amounts of wine can even help reduce brain damage after a stroke. Drink in moderation though – more than 1 or 2 glasses of wine is not very good for your brain. If you don’t drink alcohol, grape juice can have similar benefits as well.
Of course, there are other healthy foods that are not part of the MIND diet. Among other things, dark chocolate is beneficial as well as delicious treat when it comes to brain health. Chocolate contains flavonoids that help protect brain cells from damage. Coffee and tea can also have long-term positive effects on alertness and overall brain health due to their caffeine content. It’s most important to eat a varied diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and healthy fats and carbohydrates. If you’d like, try to include some foods from the MIND diet.