2 Diets Proven to Prevent Alzheimer's (and shave 7.5 years off your brain age!)
We all want to age gracefully—am I right?
Of particular interest to me lately, though, is whether food can help our brains age gracefully (I know, obviously this is where I take it). I’ve been hearing things in the media about this or that “Alzheimer’s-fighting food,” and I really want to cut through all the the noise for you and unpack what the science is saying. Can we can actually reduce our risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with food? The good news (whew!) is that, YES, we can. Specifically, there are two ways of eating that can slash our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (and even make our healthy aging brains 7.5 times younger).
There are two ways of eating that can slash our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (and even make our healthy aging brains 7.5 times younger).
Now, you may not have heard of these before (I mean, they’re not as trendy or cool as Paleo or Keto right now, that’s for sure), and they don’t contain the latest and greatest superfood on the market. But they are actually proven to be fighting the good fight against Alzheimers and keeping our brains younger. So that makes them pretty cool in my books.
WHY YOU NEED TO FEED YOUR BRAIN THE RIGHT WAY
Because your brain uses so much energy, it also creates metabolic waste. These wastes come in the form of free radicals that promote inflammation and oxidation (i.e free radical damage)—and these are serious brain busters. Too much unfettered inflammation and oxidation has been linked to all the brain and mental health conditions studied to date, including Alzheimer’s disease.
A bit of Inflammation and oxidation processes are 100% natural and normal, so don’t worry. But inflammation and oxidation can also be caused by stress, poor diet, and day-to-day toxicity—so they need to be kept in check and at a minimum. The good news is there is something you can do to minimize them and their negative effects. And you guessed it, it’s by eating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
What you eat (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants) affects your brain health. And what you eat over months and years can affect your brain health over months and years.
What you eat (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants) affects your brain health. And what you eat over months and years can affect your brain health over months and years. Makes sense, right? So let’s delve in.
CANADA BRAIN HEALTH DIET
This diet is based on the Mediterranean diet, and for a good reason. People who follow the Mediterranean diet have a 36% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and 27% reduced risk of developing “mild cognitive impairment” (which is associated with Alzheimer’s).
So, I know you’re wondering, what exactly do I need to regularly eat to help protect my brain?!
5 foods that slash your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Canada Brain Health Diet
- 5 servings vegetables/day (1 cup of leafy greens at least once/day)
- 4 servings fruit/day
- 1/2 cup beans twice/week
- 1/4 cup unsalted nuts once/day (we recommend raw nuts at NeuroTrition)
- 3-4 oz fish three times/week (check out this and this for our recommended fish sources and why)
Now let’s quickly look at a similar diet called the MIND diet.
MIND here stands for Mediterranean Dietary Approach to Systolic Hypertension Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It’s a mouthful, I know, but listen up: evidence shows that this MIND diet may slow age-related changes in brain health. In fact, it boasts a whopping 53% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s in people who follow it for 4 years.
When you do the math (and the scientists have), this means that people who eat the MIND diet have cognitive (thinking) ability equivalent to people 7.5 years younger!
Ok, so what do you need to eat to think younger?!
3 FOODS TO SHAVE 7.5 YEARS OFF YOUR BRAIN’S AGE
The MIND Diet
- 2 servings vegetables/day
- 5 one-half cup servings of berries/week
- 3 servings whole grains/day (grains negatively affect some people’s brain and mental health in our experience, so this one’s on an individual basis with our clients)
WHAT THESE 2 DIETS HAVE IN COMMON
Both the Canada Brain Health diet and the MIND diet are based on real, whole foods (not pre-made, pre-packaged, processed foods; in fact, both of these diets say to stay far, far away away from these as well as fried and fast foods).
Both diets include:
They both recommend limiting (and in our opinion, ultimately weaning off to completely eliminating):
- Sweets (and sugar is hidden in SO MANY THINGS, so please start reading labels)
- Butter (I still recommend unsalted, organic, grass-fed butter to cook at high heat with as we prefer it to the other high-heat tolerant oils like grapeseed or conventional canola, which are very high in omega-6’s)
- Red & processed meat (I still allow red meats like bison and lamb, because they contain a ton of inflammation-busting CLA fat and lower amounts of saturated fat, along with higher quality protein)
- Full-fat dairy (I hate fat free or low fat anything as it is always higher in sugar so if clients are going to have dairy we do recommend some fat in it; but because of a growing sensitivity to dairy, we’re actually encouraging a shift to dairy alternatives these days, like almond milk and coconut milk)
- Fried foods
- Fast and/or processed foods
In a nutshell, both diets are “nutrient dense,” which means they have a lot of vitamins and minerals (a.k.a. micronutrients) for every calorie (a.k.a. macronutrients – carbs, fat, protein). And they incorporate foods that are shown to significantly reduce inflammation and oxidation.
If you want to preserve your brain function as you age, or you’re at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (or you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Stage 1 or 2 of this disease, where research suggests and I think we can still help with food and supplements), following the Canada Brain Health diet and the MIND diet is our NeuroTrition Rx.
Now, part of my personal mission is to serve you with not just the science, but to also share the delicious ways you can eat a more brain-healthy diet. So, try some of the recipes my Neuro-Chefs have been cooking up:
- Dairy Free Coffee Creamer
- Peppermint Mocha with Organic Tea or Espresso
- Brain-Boosting Hot Cocoa
- Coconut Whipped Cream
These diets might not seem mind-blowing or revolutionary, but they are powerful and proven. So please, make a daily habit of eating more vegetables, fruit and nuts. Eat beans and fish a few times per week. And limit your intake of sweets, butter (unless they are the best quality you can get), red and processed meats (unless bison or lamb), full-fat dairy, and fried, fast and processed foods.
You can begin preserving your brain by focusing on specific nutrients (like omega-3s), or even foods (like fish). But, to get the whole picture on how to eat for healthy brain aging, I need you to think holistically and get into this whole way of eating.
Your future self will thank you, I promise.
- Lindseth, G. & Petros, T. (2016). Neurobehavioral Effects of Consuming Dietary Fatty Acids. (2016). Biol Res Nurs. 18(5), 573-581. LINK:
- Morris, M.C., Tangney, C.C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F.M., Bennett, D.A. & Aggarwal, N.T. (2015). MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimers Dement. 11(9),1007-1014.
- Singh, B., Parasaik, A.K., Mielke, M.M., Erwin, P.J., Knopman, D.S., Petersen, R.C. & Roberts, R.O. (2014). Association of Mediterranean diet with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis. 39, 271-282.
- Smith, P.J., Blumenthal, J.A., Babyak, M.A., Craighead, L., Welsh-Bohmer, K.A., Browndyke, J.N., Strauman, T.A., & Sherwood, A. (2010). Effects of the dietary approaches to stop hypertension diet, exercise, and caloric restriction on neurocognition in overweight adults with high blood pressure. Hypertension. 55, 1331-1338.
- Valls-Pedret, C., Sala-Vila, A., Serra-Mir, M., Corella, D., de la Torre, R., Martínez-González, M.Á., Martínez-Lapiscina, E.H., Fitó, M., Pérez-Heras, A., Salas-Salvadó, J., Estruch, R. & Ros, E. (2015). Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. 175(7), 1094-1103.
- Zamroziewicz, M.K. & Barbey, A.K. (2016). Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience: Innovations for Healthy Brain Aging. Front Neurosci. 10, 240.