While you may know certain foods are better for your overall health and wellness, you may not realize just how much that kale salad and lentil soup are doing for you. From boosting your fertility to increasing your resiliency, nutritious foods power not only your body but also your mind.
“Basically, a healthy diet can help us to maintain or improve cognitive function and a healthy brain,” explains Anne Linge, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at the Nutrition Clinic at University of Washington Medical Center-Roosevelt.
How much exactly? Well, in a promising 2015 study, researchers developed eating guidelines — dubbed the MIND diet — highlighting certain types of foods that specifically nourish and protect the brain. In that observational study, some participants were able to slow their rate of cognitive decline by the equivalent of 7.5 years.
What’s more, Linge says, the types of foods found in the MIND diet seem to benefit you no matter how old you are or at what age you start.
“While there’s an increased risk of dementia in those above 65 years of age, research shows that changing your food intake can make a big difference, whether that’s starting as early as your 20s or not until your 50s and 60s,” she says.
Linge breaks down the 10 main food categories in this brain-boosting diet and dishes on what you can eat for better memory, focus and overall brain health.
What is the MIND diet?
When creating the MIND diet — short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay — researchers combined elements of two existing diets known to improve heart health: the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.
“The Mediterranean diet focus on lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and heart-healthy oils,” Linge says. “When we talk about the DASH diet, the purpose is to stop high blood pressure, so we’re looking at more servings of fruits and vegetables, more fiber and less saturated fat.”
In comparison, the MIND diet beefs up the amount of leafy greens, calls out whole grains and berries, focuses on fish and poultry and emphasizes the use of olive oil. It also includes some suggestions on foods you should consume less often: red meat, fried and fast foods, pastries, sweets and certain dairy products like cheese, butter and margarine.
“The MIND diet ends up being high in folate, carotenoids, vitamin E, flavonoids and antioxidants,” Linge says. “All of these things seem to have potential benefits to the cognitive function.”