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What to Eat to Keep Your Brain Sharp
Are you feeling forgetful? It could be due to lack of sleep, lifestyle, environmental factors or even activity level. It may be a medical condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes. However, there is no doubt that a healthy diet plays a major role in brain health which is vital to keeping your brain sharp.
Brain – Diet Connection
Studies link foods found in a Mediterranean-style diet (rich in vegetables, fish, legumes and healthy fats) to improved memory and alertness. Saturated and hydrogenated fats, typically found in processed foods, are associated with dementia, as these foods promote inflammation.
A surprising link, changes in your gut (intestinal tract) may also be linked to inflammation in the brain. The gut contains both good and bad bacteria. This is referred to as your microbiome. Foods that feed the good bacteria such as yogurt, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, whole grains and blueberries can reduce this inflammation.
The MIND Diet
This diet is a combination of a Mediterranean-style and the DASH diet (dietary approach to stop high blood pressure). In one study the MIND diet decreased the risk of cognitive decline by 35%. It focuses on foods that nourish and protect the brain. These foods include vegetables, especially leafy greens, berries, fish, poultry, legumes (beans), whole grains, olive oil and nuts.
- Leafy Greens – Have a salad and at least 1 other vegetable every day.
- Berries – Include 2 servings a week (1 serving is 1/2c); especially blueberries.
- Fish – Strive for at least one serving a week; focus on omega 3 rich sources.
- Poultry – Include this protein at least twice a week; 1 serving is 3 ounces.
- Beans – Have 1/2c every other day; chickpeas, kidney, lima and black beans.
- Whole Grains – Include 3 servings daily. One serving equals 1 slice of whole grain bread or 1/2c of brown rice, oats, quinoa or other whole grain.
- Olive Oil – Use this fat over other oils and spreads; in moderation.
- Nuts – Enjoy a small handful as a snack; keep portions in check as calories add up fast!
- Wine – If you choose to drink, a glass of wine (5 oz.) daily may be beneficial.
“Foods to Limit” for the MIND
There are five foods linked to impairing memory. They are foods that are high in saturated fats or sugar.
- Red Meat – less than 4 x a week.
- Fried & Fast Food – less than 1 x a week.
- Whole-Fat Cheese – less than 2oz a week.
- Butter/Margarine – less than 1 tablespoon a day.
- Pastries & Sweets – 5 servings or less a week.
The Bottom Line
Although we cannot turn back the hands of time, what you eat can support a healthy brain. These foods are consistent with a healthy eating pattern. An active lifestyle along with eating healthy contributes to overall well-being, support good health and mental sharpness.
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