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Brain health: Which foods are best?

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Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise. What can we do to reduce our risk of getting this debilitating disease?  It turns out that new research from the team at Rush University Medical Center is showing promise with the MIND diet. A diet that limits red meats, butter and stick margarine, pastries, sweets, fried foods and cheese.  They have compiled a list of 8 power foods for our brain.

People who followed this diet in the 4 ½ year study had brains that functioned as if they were 7 ½ years younger than those who’s diet was high in saturated fats.  The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease was decreased by a whopping 50%. Researchers also found that those people who followed the MIND diet plan just part of the time still had a 35% lower risk of the disease.

MIND brain health guidelines:

  1. Vegetables/ Leafy Greens: one cup raw or ½ cup cooked greens and ½ cup other vegetables per day.

Those people eating one or two serving of greens like collards, kale, or spinach for 5 years, had the brain of someone 11 years younger. This according to the RUSH University study.

  1. Nuts: Five 1 oz. servings per week.

The selenium contained in nuts, particularly Brazil nuts, are essential for the parts of our brain that are responsible for verbal abilities and spatial skills.

  1. Berries: One cup twice per week.

Berries are the only fruit that benefit our brain. Women ages 70 and older who ate strawberries or blueberries once or twice per week had a brain 2 ½ years younger than non-berry eaters. The antioxidants in berries help the brain clean out parts of cells that are damaged. Frozen berries contain the same benefits as fresh.

  1. Beans: ½ cup cooked, four times per week.

For a healthy dose of folate, eating black, kidney, white beans or lentils may play a part in preventing dementia later in life. Canned beans contain the same nutrients as dried cooked beans.

  1. Poultry/Fish: 6 oz. of poultry per week, 3 oz. of fish per week. (not fried)

Older adults who did not have dementia and ate 3 to 5 ounces of fish per week for one year, experienced less brain shrinkage. The omega 3 fats in fish may improve learning and memory by increasing the brain’s ability to send and receive messages.  Both fish and chicken are lower in saturated fat than red meat.  Some of the healthiest fish are wild salmon, haddock, tilapia, and sardines.

  1. Olive Oil: daily

Research has shown that olive oil may reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel function. The phenolic compounds found in extra virgin olive oil may help prevent toxic protein deposits, which are found in people with Alzheimer’s disease.  Cook with it, and use it on salads, and vegetables.

  1. Whole Grains: ½ cup cooked grains, or a slice of whole-grain bread three times per day.

In a study that tracked the diets of older men and women, whole grains like quinoa, or bulgur were associated with higher levels of brain function.

  1. Wine: One glass per day.

Wine drinking is linked to better brain health, but drink only in moderation. Adults averaging more than 12 grams of alcohol per day (4 oz. of wine) had an increased risk of developing dementia.


While there are many other foods that are fabulous for your brain, these are the best as reported in the Rush Study. If you are able to work these foods into your daily diet, it may help keep your mind sharp. Good nutrition will keep your whole body healthy and youthful longer.  However, absent from this list is my personal favorite, a high anti-oxidant food, dark chocolate. I have to confess to adding this to my diet daily! Here’s to great brain health.

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