Brain Health: How Your Diet Can Affect Your Mind

Brain Health: How Your Diet Can Affect Your Mind

As we know, the cause of Dementia is multifaceted, as there can be a combination of contributing factors, including genes, age, lifestyle, activity level, and coexisting medical conditions. While we can’t change our age or our genetics, we are in control of things like exercise and diet, which can significantly support our brain health as we age. 

What’s the connection between brain health and our diet? 

 A recent study suggests our risk for cognitive decline may increase if ultra-processed foods make up over 20 percent of our daily diet. Foods like frozen dinners, packaged cookies, or sweetened breakfast cereals are known as “ultra-processed.”  Choosing these types of foods is known to be cheaper and more convenient. However, these options leave much to be desired nutritionally.  

 Although thinking about giving up drive-thru cheeseburgers may seem disappointing, don’t lose heart. The same study also revealed no proof of a cognitive decline in participants who maintain an overall high-quality diet with a limited portion of ultra-processed foods. What’s our takeaway? It’s all about moderation and balance! If you want that cheeseburger now and then, just make sure you balance it with whole foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains. 

What are some common ultra-processed foods that could affect brain health? 

  • Sugary Drinks – Soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, blended frozen coffee drinks 
  • Processed Dairy – American cheese, cream cheese, jarred/canned cheese sauce, mozzarella sticks, flavored yogurt 
  • Processed Meats – Bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs, beef jerky, smoked cold cuts from the deli counter 
  • Frozen Food/Convenience Meals – French fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, frozen dinners 
  • Snacks and Such– Microwaved popcorn, candy with a long list of ingredients, cake mixes, flavored potato chips, instant mashed potatoes, sweetened breakfast cereal, instant noodles 

What are some examples of foods that may improve brain health? 

  • Leafy Green Vegetables – Spinach, lettuce, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, broccoli 
  • Cold-water Fish – Salmon, tuna, cod, trout 
  • Berries and Dark-skinned Fruits – Blueberries, blackberries, black cherries, dates 
  • Healthy Oils – Extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil 
  • Miscellaneous – Coffee, tea, dark chocolate, walnuts, eggs, turmeric, avocados 

Eliminating ultra-processed foods all at once can be daunting and somewhat unrealistic for most. We encourage you to start by gradually cutting back on the “junk” foods and trying to incorporate at least one new memory-boosting food each week. There will be some days when, for the sake of convenience, you reach for those ultra-processed foods again. And that’s okay! Remember, the key to sustainable healthy results is moderation and balance. Our overall health will ultimately be better if we treat ourselves with a little more care when it comes to our nutrition, as well as the nutrition of our loved ones. 

Would you like to learn more about adapting to a healthy eating lifestyle? Check out some of our additional tips for eating healthier! 

Thank you to our guest blog contributors, Krista Mayberry, Interim Physical Therapist, and Melissa Boiter, Interim Speech Therapist.