We have all heard that eating certain foods builds muscles or makes strong bones, but what about eating food that fuels your mind? That’s a question the Meals & More staff at CICOA has been researching. Through our research, we have discovered brain health resources, diet tips and recipes that can be used by people of any age looking to improve brain health.
Over the next several months, we will be sharing these resources, tips, recipes and more on CICOA’s nutrition blog. It is our hope to provide quick, easy, and brain-healthy recipes that family caregivers can cook and enjoy along with their care recipient.
Researchers find foods that support brain health
One of the first things we found in our study is the MIND Diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet was developed by a nutritional epidemiologist named Martha Clare Morris at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
The MIND Diet recommends eating foods that are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and many other brain healthy nutrients. Several research sources like AARP, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and Social Care Institute for Excellence show that these nutrients promote brain health and health in general.
The MIND Diet suggests ten foods to enjoy more of and five foods to limit. The “Eat More” list contains food items that many people routinely aren’t getting enough of, so it’s good to be aware of these foods and how often you consume them.
MIND Diet Ten Foods to Enjoy More Often
- Green, leafy vegetables (six or more times a week): Try choosing options like spinach, kale, and other salad leaves.
- All vegetables (once a day): Try to aim for less starchy options like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.
- Berries (at least twice a week): Blueberries and strawberries have the highest antioxidant content.
- Nuts (five or more servings a week): Good options are almonds, walnuts and pistachios.
- Olive oil (use as main cooking oil): Try using olive oil as a substitute for butter and margarine.
- Whole grains (three servings daily): Oats, whole grain bread and pasta, and quinoa are solid options.
- Fish (at least once a week): Choose fish that are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Tuna and salmon are great options and easier on the checkbook.
- Beans (at least four servings a week): Beans in all forms are great, but remember to wash canned beans before consuming to rinse off excessive sodium they may be packed with.
- Poultry (twice a week): Opt for grilled or baked poultry and avoid fried options.
- Wine (One five-ounce glass daily): Make sure it’s only five ounces! Also, if you do not drink alcohol, do not start. Drinking a glass of purple grape juice gives many of the same benefits!
MIND Diet Five Foods to Limit
- Butter and margarine (no more than one tablespoon daily): Try using olive oil instead. It’s delicious!
- Red meat (no more than three times a week): When choosing red meat options, be mindful of the fat content and choose meats that are lower in fat.
- Fried food (less than once a week): Fried food has little to no nutritional value, so try to consume it no more than once every other week in small portions.
- Pastries/sweets (less than five times a week): This is actually very generous and allows people to have enjoyment of sweets, but be careful of portion size.
- Cheese* (less than once a week): Dairy has many known health benefits, like calcium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamins A and D. These nutrients are many of the same ones lacking in most American diets. Cheese is fine in moderation, but we added the asterisk to remind you to check portion sizes, because it is easy to overindulge in this also!
Throughout this journey, we will be referring back to these recommendations frequently. They are not meant to be restrictive, but rather to offer you a goal to work toward. You can eat more than just the ten suggested foods, and you can eat these ten foods more frequently than listed here. Research has shown that following this meal plan even moderately is linked with an improvement in brain functioning.
Our hope is that you will incorporate more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and heart- and brain-healthy fats, while limiting foods that don’t promote a healthy brain. Continue to follow us on this journey for more information on food that fuels your mind!
In Case You Missed It: Read the first blog post in this series, A New Focus on Nutrition and Dementia.
Robyn, an AmeriCorps VISTA at CICOA, is leading the charge on the Nutrition and Dementia project, which is near and dear to her heart. As a teenager, Robyn became a caregiver for her grandmother who was diagnosed with vascular dementia. Robyn says it was one of the hardest diagnoses to cope with. The resources she is helping create would have been useful to her as a caregiver during the progression of her grandmother’s disease. After her grandmother’s death in 2016, she wanted to make a difference for others going through similar situations. Through this blog, that dream is being made into a reality! Robyn is a certified nursing assistant and holds a master’s degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, and society from Butler University.