Studies carried out in Canada have linked eating certain foods with a reduced risk of dementia, but two Canadian researchers are taking the conclusions of this research one step further and examining whether a combination of these brain-healthy foods might provide enhanced protection against cognitive decline.
Matthew Parrott, at Concordia University in Montreal, and Carol Greenwood, from the Rotman Research Institute are working on a Brain Health Food Guide that follows a version of the Mediterranean diet. According to Parrott “Studies show that adults aged 50 plus who followed a recommended eating plan for four years did not experience any memory loss….” His colleague Greenwood added “There are short-term gains, too. “After only four months on this type of eating plan, adults performed as if they were nine years younger on reading and writing speed tests.”
Parrott and Greenwood concluded that to maximise the effectiveness of brain healthy foods, one should eat certain quantities of all of the foods on the list, as often as possible – whilst at the same time limiting intake of red meat and processed foods.
Here are the foods they recommend:
Raw leafy greens
Darker greens, such as spinach, kale and romaine, have more brain-boosting antioxidants and vitamin K. Try to consume at least 150grams daily
Broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K and glucosinolates, which have an antioxidant effect. Include at least three 75gram servings in your diet every week.
Blueberries – All berries have a positive effect on brain health, but blueberries have been studied the most. They contain flavonoids, which activate brain pathways associated with less cellular aging. Try to consume 75 grams of any berries three times a week.
Beans – It’s unknown exactly what makes beans, lentils and chickpeas good for brain health, but it’s likely due to a combination of antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Include 75 grams in your diet as a replacement for red meat at least twice a week.
Nuts – Unsalted nuts are high in antioxidants and healthy fats. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acid, a brain-protective nutrient. Aim for 35 grams of nuts once a day
Fish – The iodine and iron in all types of fish are thought to help maintain cognitive function. Fattier fish, like salmon and trout, also contain brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. Include fish in your diet twice a week
Whole grains – Choose fibre-rich whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole-grain wheat to offset your intake of refined grains.
Poultry – Substitute chicken for red or processed meat whenever appropriate, remembering to only have one portion a day.
Low fat dairy – Opt for 1% or skim milk and yogurt, or cheese with 22% milk fat or less.
Olive oil – Use this as your main oil for cooking and in salad dressing. It contains monounsaturated fats and vitamin E, as well as antioxidants.