The Brain diet plan: Try these 9 strategies to boost your brain health

  • 2 Minutes Read
Brenda Braslow
Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

Did you know that science shows that nutrition may impact brain structure and function? Eat smart by trying this brain diet plan.

Brain diet plan

Here's why you should consider a healthy brain diet plan

I once worked with a teacher who came to me for advice because his diet and lifestyle were unhealthy. He ate mainly fast food and drank large amounts of caffeinated sodas to get through his day. He complained of fatigue and reported brain fog, which was not a good thing when in front of a class all day. I advised him to wean himself off the sodas, drink more water, and taught him how to replace fast food with more simple, healthy meals and snacks. A few months later, I got a phone call from this gentleman. He announced, "I make sense now!".

When I asked him to explain further, he replied, "My brain is so much clearer now when I am teaching classes. Thanks for your advice, I am a better teacher now!" Think about it.

The science behind the brain diet plan

It is well established that nutrition impacts brain structure and function. Nutrition's impact on the brain has been studied throughout the life cycle, from pre-pregnancy to the elderly. The topic is complex. For one, it is not easy to isolate single nutrients and antioxidants because we eat foods, not single substances. Scientists also think there is probably a combined effect of nutrition with exercise, hormones, and genetic makeup for each person. That said, common themes are emerging in science to show healthy nutrition can play a critical role to enhance brain function. Nutrition matters, whether you are a college student trying to ace the next exam, a pregnant woman wanting to grow a smart baby, or a baby boomer wanting to hang on to every last brain cell, Why not consider some brain health nutrition strategies.

Here are 9 Brain health nutrition strategies that you can add to your routine today:

  1. Include plenty of plant foods in your diet. The brain is a highly active organ and is at risk of damage. Choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in order to get a wide array of antioxidants. Also, whole grains offer more antioxidants than refined types.
  2. Go Mediterranean. One study showed that following a Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease by 13%. This style of eating is known for its high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, and monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. It is also low in red meat, animal fat, and processed foods.
  3. Seek out omega 3s. The omega 3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are very important for brain structure and function. DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain cell membrane. DHA also helps protect the brain from inflammation. The body is not real great at producing DHA so we need food sources. Choose fatty fish, such as ocean salmon and tuna, leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seed.
  4. Go easy on saturated fat and trans fat. Quite simply, the brain benefits from healthy blood flow. Brain health nutrition gives us one more reason to go lean, low fat, and to eat less processed foods.
  5. Tame the sweet tooth. If you have diabetes or insulin resistance, high blood sugar and high insulin levels can adversely affect brain health. The important memory region of the brain is especially sensitive to uncontrolled blood sugar.
  6. Watch the portions. Aim for feeling comfortable, not stuffed when eating. Excess calories have been shown to reduce brain function and to make brain cells more prone to damage. On the other hand, mild caloric restriction may positively impact brain capacity.
  7. Stay hydrated. Water is necessary to maintain the membranes of the brain for normal function. Water also keeps the brain from overheating, which can cause mental decline and possible damage.
  8. Get your A B Cs of nutrients. Certain nutrients are essential brain protectors, including vitamins A, E, C, iron, zinc, and folate. These nutrients appear to work as a team for brain health nutrition. Include a variety of whole, less processed foods to get plenty of nutrients. A daily multivitamin-mineral supplement can also be an added bonus in a brain diet plan.
  9. Exercise and sleep. Research suggests that the effects of a brain diet plan work in symphony with other important lifestyle factors such as exercise and adequate sleep.

Reviewing the current science on brain health nutrition certainly challenged my brain's capacity. I snacked on berries, baby carrots, and walnuts while reading about this topic in hopes it would fuel my brain to process this promising area of health. In conclusion, eat smart and try to choose your foods wisely.

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Updated May 6, 2020

Meal Planning & Diets->Healthy Eating Meal Planning & Diets->Mediterranean Style Other Health Issues->Aging
May 6, 2020

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