12 June 2023
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while! Scientists no longer accept that memory loss is a natural part of aging. In the case of Alzheimer's, there are risk genes and deterministic genes, with only the latter putting prevention outside of our control. It turns out that only 3% of Alzheimer’s cases are the type that is entirely caused by genetics. That means we have the power to keep our brains healthy through lifestyle decisions!
The Global Council on Brain Health (a collaboration between AARP in the US and Age UK) found the following diets to be brain healthy:
Mediterranean diet. Characterized by a high intake of monounsaturated fats (mainly from olive oil), vegetables, fruits, plant proteins, whole grains, and fish, the Mediterranean diet limits the consumption of beef and pork, refined grains, and sweets.
Nordic Diet. With an emphasis on plant-based nutrients such as fruits and vegetables, the Nordic Diet also incorporates the consumption of fatty fish, oils (notably rapeseed/canola oil), nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Recommending 4-5 servings each per day of vegetables and fruits, this plan is characterized by a low intake of sodium and small portion sizes, inclusion of nuts, low-fat and non-fat dairy products, lean meats, and whole grains.
Okinawa Diet. The diet, originating from the Blue Zone Japanese island, emphasizes the consumption of yellow, orange, and green vegetables and includes soy and legumes. It also limits the intake of refined grains, sugar, salt, and dairy, and includes very small quantities of fish and rice.
MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet. In order of predominance, this diet recommends green leafy vegetables, berries, other vegetables, nuts, beans, poultry and fish. It also has strict limits on butter, cheese, fried food, and fast food.
Do you notice a theme among these diets? They all emphasize vegetables and other plant foods, with limits on saturated fat and added sugars. It’s really not brain surgery (no pun intended) to take actions that can protect your brain.