#1 Diet for Improving Memory & Unlocking Habits for a Healthier BrainJan 24, 2023
Hearing more buzz on the topic of brain health these days? Me, too.
And I’m glad because brain health isn’t just another fad that will come and go, it's an awakening. It's taking the internet by storm and shedding light on some of the major flaws in our current health system and practices.
Brain health advocates are promoting much needed changes that can overhaul your health and happiness for the better, especially in the excessively stressful world we live in today. So, as a memory health coach, I’m glad to be a part of this brain health revolution.
Targeting your brain health can not only improve your memory and decrease your risk of memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and other dementias, it can dramatically increase your happiness, reduce your stress, and promote mental well-being as soon as your next meal - at any age.
Memory and Nutrition
When it comes to your memory health, not all diets are created equal.
Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist and brain health specialist, said it best when he shared: If you eat a fast-food diet, you will have a fast-food brain.
The science is simple, healthy diets are associated with bigger brain size, and quite frankly size matters when it comes to your brain. This is especially true as you age, and equally important in the here and now.
Because the choices you make can improve your physical, mental, and cognitive health at your very next meal… and the one after that.
I think it's safe to say that most of us have room for improvement in our diets. Unlocking habits for better brain health is huge part of my 1-on-1 memory confidence program. I help my clients create strategies to make that possible every day, so you can nourish clear thinking and more mental energy without having to think too hard about it.
The Best Diet for Improving Memory
The best diet for improving memory includes regular consumption of brain-healthy food groups, prioritizes the intake of diverse fiber-rich fruits and vegetables (also known as eating the rainbow), and most importantly: makes you feel amazing!
Research to date has shown that the MIND diet accomplishes just that. The MIND diet is a combination of two other popular diets: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
It stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” or more simply, the think-clearly-and-keep-your-mind-healthy-diet.
Both the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet have demonstrated the power to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions.
The MIND diet was created by researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It is designed to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline.
It can help you think more clearly right now, too.
That’s because the MIND diet encourages you to trade inflammatory foods, excess sugars and highly processed items for anti-inflammatory, brain-boosting food groups.
Mind Diet Food List
The MIND diet encourages eating 10 brain-healthy food groups, including:
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale
- Other vegetables (in addition to the green leafy veggies), such as broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
- Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, chia and hemp seeds
- Beans and legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
- Fish, such as salmon and tuna
- Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- Olive oil
The MIND diet and green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are an important part of the Mind Diet. Not only have they been shown to rewind cognitive age when consumed daily, but they are also low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Examples include kale, spinach, arugula swiss chard and collard greens. Eat at least one serving per day to maximize their brain benefits.
Berries are rich in antioxidants and can help to reduce inflammation. Eating a variety of berries, at a minimum of twice per week, can also help to improve brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats. Aim for five or more servings per week. They are a great source of protein and fiber and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Examples include almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds.
Whole grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They give you energy and help to regulate blood sugar levels. Examples include oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.
Eating Fish on the MIND Diet
While some brain-healthy diets advocate for a more plant-based approach, fish can be a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health. Aim for one serving per week. Recommended varieties include wild-caught salmon and sardines.
The MIND diet includes poultry, which is a lean source of protein that is low in saturated fat. But when it comes to meat, quality matters. High-quality protein should ideally be free of hormones and antibiotics, free-range and grass fed. Smaller doses of meat, or just two servings per week, are better for you than large amounts, so it becomes more about making an investment in your health.
Eating Olive Oil Benefits your Brain
Olive oil is a healthy alternative to other cooking oils and is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. It has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Wine on the MIND Diet
Finally, we get to the wine.
Red wine has long been touted for its brain health benefits due to the compound resveratrol, which is a polyphenol known for protecting the body against cancers, heart disease, and neurogenerative diseases.
Which is exciting if you love wine! But not so fast…
While the research indicates some benefits of consuming wine, the risks still may outweigh the benefits, especially with excessive intake. So be mindful of your pour and limit to no more than one (5oz) glass daily.
Foods to Reduce or Avoid on the MIND Diet
While your goal should never be to eat the perfect diet, there are certain foods to avoid as much as possible while following the MIND diet.
The MIND diet suggests avoiding five foods that can have a negative impact on mental and cognitive health. These five foods include:
- Refined grains such as white bread, white rice, and pasta
- Processed meats such as bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and fried foods
- Sugary drinks and desserts
- Red meat
Many of the foods on this list are notably high in saturated fat, which is known increase your risk for all chronic diseases.
Who is the MIND diet for?
To be honest, I hate the word diet. The MIND diet is really a lifestyle and this way of living and eating is for everyone with a brain, literally.
It's so easy to take your brain for granted when all is going well... until it isn't. And reversing issues after they arise is much more difficult than proactively protecting your mental health, memory and cognition.
Studies demonstrate that aside from the marked risk reduction in the incidence of Alzheimer's disease, adherence to the MIND diet can improve your thinking skills, processing speed and your memory.
Even moderate adherence to the MIND diet lifestyle demonstrates a 35% reduction in risk of Alzheimer's disease (compared to a 53% decrease in those who follow the diet closely).
It's really a no-brainer.
Final Words on the MIND Diet
If you were to do nothing else to change your diet except eat more colorful fruits and vegetables every day, you would still get enormous benefits to your overall health.
And every step you take that’s closer toward a brain-healthy diet, can help you think more clearly, today, tomorrow and as the years go by.
The MIND diet is an easy way to incorporate brain-healthy eating into your lifestyle. It’s been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to a whopping 53%, compared to other traditional diets. It also emphasizes preparing delicious meals at home with your family and eating a variety of foods, which is something we can all stand to benefit from. Give it a try and see how it works for you!
And as always, I’m here to help you when you need it. Happy colorful eating, friends!