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Brain Health: MIND Your Nutrition

Updated: Jan 14

-Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC

July 17, 2022



The fascinating field of neuroscience continues to contribute helpful research to the world. A recent area of focus links healthy eating and healthy living with the promotion of neurocognitive functioning. When it comes to the brain, time is of the essence.


"To promote healthy brain aging and stave off neurocognitive diseases of aging including dementias, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and memory loss, there is good reason to believe that a well-balanced, nutritious diet can provide many benefits" the Pacific Neuroscience Institute explains (2022). "A brain healthy diet can minimize inflammation and insulin resistance, as well as nourish brain cells (neurons) and connections (synapses)."




There are no specific diets that have been defined as the gold standard for preventing neurodegenerative disorders, but the MIND diet has shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia and neurocognitive decline that often accompanies aging. The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet was developed by Rush Education's nutritional epidemiologist, Martha Clare Morris and colleagues.


The research team led by Morris shows that the MIND diet lowered the risk of AD (Alzheimer's disease) by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately well. (Rush, 2022). "The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 'brain-healthy food groups' — green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine."


MIND over Matter


Ten Foods to Eat on the MIND diet (Healthline, 2020) include:

Green, leafy vegetables: At least six servings per week including, kale, spinach, cooked greens and salads.

All other vegetables: Try to eat another vegetable (non-starchy) in addition to the green leafy vegetables at least once a day.

Berries: Eat berries at least twice a week. Blueberries are the best, but raspberries, blackberries also have antioxidant benefits, strawberries is healthy also.

Nuts: Try to get five servings of nuts or more each week. (These are very small servings, varying types of nuts).

Olive oil: Just olive oil should be used as your main cooking oil.

Whole grains: At least three servings daily of whole grains, like oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread.

Fish: have fish at least once a week. It is best to choose fatty fish like salmon, sardines, trout, tuna and mackerel for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

Beans: Include beans in at least four meals per week, including all beans, lentils and soybeans.

Poultry: Try to eat chicken or turkey at least twice a week, with the exception of fried chicken.

Wine: There should be no more than one 4 ounce glass of wine per day, red wine is shown to have better health benefits more than one glass daily. Both red and white wine may benefit the brain.


Five foods to avoid while on the MIND diet are:

Butter and margarine: Use olive oil to cook with or and dipping your bread in olive oil with herbs

Cheese: The MIND diet recommends limiting your cheese consumption to no more than once per week

Red meat: Aim for no more than three servings each week which includes all beef, pork, lamb and any products made with these meats

Fried food: The MIND diet highly discourages fried food and you shouldn't have it more than once per week

Pastries and sweets: which includes processed junk food and desserts, such as ice cream, cookies, brownies, donuts, candy and more. These items should be limited to no more than four times a week


Trans fats have been shown to be associated with a lot of diseases including stroke, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease. Studies also show that saturated fats can be associated with poor brain health. When it comes to the brain, there is no time like the present to make drastic changes.


Doesn't Your Brain Deserve the Best Chance?


"A healthy brain is essential for living a longer and fuller life" (Gorelick et al., 2017). "Brain health enables thought, planned action, and emotional connections that affect the daily lives and progress of individuals, families and communities." Nutrition is one major way to give your brain the very best.


Other protective factors for brain health include: physical activity, continuous learning, meditation, and creative learning, and brain games. The Cleveland Clinic reports "for patients with mild cognitive impairment, the best thing you can do to maintain your brain health is to exercise (particularly aerobic exercise) twice a week" (2022).


The Cleveland Clinic also recommends these general recommendations for maintaining good brain health:

  • Maintain good blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood glucose levels

  • Stop smoking and avoid excess drinking

  • Eat a healthy diet

  • Maintain appropriate weight

  • Reduce stress

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep

  • Exercise the brain (doing puzzles, quizzes, card games, reading, learning a new language or playing a new instrument)

  • Engage in social activities


The MIND diet and the general recommendations provided for good brain health are also great guidelines to manage any other physical health or mental health condition. Cognitive decline often includes layers of anxiety and depression. There is no time like the present to take steps for positive change.



 


Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing teresa@steppingtowardserenity.org, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting https://www.steppingtowardserenity.org


 


References


American Heart Association (2022). Life's essential 8. Retrieved by


Cleveland Clinic (2022). Mild cognitive impairment. Retrieved from


Gorelick, P.B., Furie, K.L., Iadecola, C., Smith, E.E., Wady, S.P., Lloyd-jones, D.M., Boe...Zerna, C (2017).

Defining optimal brain health in adults. DOI:10.1161/STR.000000000000148.


Healthline (2022). The MIND diet: A detailed guide for beginners. Retrieved from


Pacific Neuroscience Institute (2022). Brain health diet. Pacific Brain Health Center. Retrieved from

https://www.pacificneuroscienceinstitute.org


Rush Education (2022). MIND diet may significantly protect against Alzheimer's disease. Retrieved







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