19 June 2023
The adult human brain is about 2% of our body weight, yet it uses 25% of the body’s energy. That means the food you eat has an outsized impact on its functioning.
Higher consumption of ultra-processed food has been associated with a higher risk of dementia. Here’s the good news: replacing 10% of ultra-processed food with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed foods was estimated to be associated with a 19% lower risk of dementia!
So...what do we replace it with? I’m glad you asked! These are foods you should be including in your diet every day if you want to protect your brain:
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens (contain folic acid, vitamin E and beta carotene to support brain health) and cruciferous vegetables (rich in Vitamin K and linked to a sharper memory).
- Legumes – if any food can claim the title “superfood”, it would be beans and lentils. High in protein, fiber, iron and phytonutrients, they have been shown to lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and increase longevity!
- Whole grains – soluble (oats, barley) and insoluble (whole wheat) fiber are both important for bowel health and help control cholesterol. B vitamins in whole grains also reduce inflammation in the brain.
- Nuts and seeds – Walnuts (don’t they just look like tiny brains?) have plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), along with fiber and minerals. Flaxseed contains lignans that fight degenerative changes in the body and brain.
- Fruits, especially blueberries (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich) and olives/avocados (rich in monounsaturated fat). Vitamin C in many fruits helps prevent brain cells from being damaged by free radicals.
- Herbs and Spices – especially turmeric, which has raised cognitive function in studies of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease. Herbs and spices also help you get more flavor with less sodium, which is good for your blood pressure and your brain.
- Water and unsweetened tea – Water is necessary for every body process, including blood pressure control and brain function. Tea has caffeine and L-theanine, which may increase focus and reduce age-related brain health decline.
A diet for brain health is not really rocket science – it’s simpler and more down-to-earth (or “from the Earth” as the case may be), but also a long term project. Why not set some goals and start today? The daily eating habits that boost your brain also happen to be great for your gut microbiome, cardiovascular system and weight management too!