Trying to decide what to eat to support good physical and cognitive health can be tricky with all the conflicting information about nutrition circulating. But scientific research continues to stand behind a Mediterranean-style diet as one of the most nutritious eating plans for wellness, longevity and brain health. A new study links the Mediterranean and MIND diets with a reduced risk of developing the brain plaques and tangles associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a recent Medical News Today report, a new study from RUSH University, published in the journal Neurology, found that eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and moderate amounts of poultry, seafood and no more than 1 glass of wine per day can promote brain health. The MIND diet, which combines the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet – which helps to lower high blood pressure, may also help protect brain function in older age. Followers of the MIND diet are also instructed to avoid butter and margarine, cheese, red meat, sugary and processed desserts and fried foods.
Both diets eschew red meat, highly processed foods, hydrogenated oils, sugary drinks and sweets. The Mediterranean diet includes minimal dairy and both focus on vegetables – especially nutrient-rich leafy green ones. The phytochemicals in berry fruits can have a preventive effect on chronic diseases by acting on oxidative stress and inflammation which is associated with diabetes, neurological and cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Researchers found that eating more than six servings of green leafy vegetables per week was associated with fewer amyloid plaques in the brain which was roughly equivalent to being four years younger. Subsequent study is planned to further investigate the link between diet and brain health through detailed neuroimaging, the study of biomarkers and other pathologies.
Getting plenty of greens throughout the day can be easy. Try keeping baby spinach or kale in the fridge to toss into soups and stews, add to wraps, sandwiches or smoothies, or sautéed to serve with eggs. And instead of a packaged dessert or ice cream, try having fresh blackberries, blueberries or raspberries as a treat to finish off a meal or during the day as a snack.
More than 55 million people globally live with dementia and an estimated 10 million new cases are expected each year. For those looking at diet to improve their brain health, researchers suggest focusing on incorporating more whole plant foods into their diet and avoiding heavily processed foods and sweets.