Just as what you eat can affect your heart, a growing body of research shows it’s just as important for your brain health.
For example, a recent study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows the MIND diet—a plan they created—could lower the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent.
That’s significant considering the debilitating effects of the incurable, progressive disease that kills brain cells and their connections, destroying memory and other important mental functions such as finding the way home and recognizing loved ones. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than three million Americans are diagnosed with the condition each year, and it affects people as young as 19 but is typically diagnosed after age 40.
The good news is the diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by a third, even in people who didn’t totally stick to it, researchers found.
The study, which was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, took a look at more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98. They filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. Researchers found that participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations maintained cognitive function equal to a person 7.5 years younger.
Other research indicates similar foods also help improve chances of avoiding a diagnosis of dementia, a group of thinking and social symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. More than three million Americans are diagnosed with the condition that impairs memory and judgement each year.
Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases.
The MIND diet is divided into “brain healthy food groups” people should eat, and five “unhealthy food groups” to generally avoid. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
You also can use these foods to shed pounds. Just be aware of portion sizes. Here’s the list:
Green leafy vegetables
roccoli, kale, spinach, collards and other greens are loaded with vitamins A and C, and other healing nutrients. Researchers found that at least two servings every week are a great brain booster. Try eating a salad and at least one other vegetable daily to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Eating any other vegetables were found to be beneficial for creating a healthy barrier for the brain.
Cinnamon, turmeric, sage and cumin are among spices that help break up brain plaque and reduce the inflammation that affects brain function. A recent study from researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Germany also found that when aromatic turmerone, a compound found in turmeric, was tested on the neural stem cells of rats, the cells multiplied faster and increased the brain’s ability to heal itself.