Brain health: Diet and nutrition

Farm Forum

This article was written collaboratively by Nikki Prosch, Leacey Brown, and Andrea Bjornestad.

Eating a healthy diet is constantly messaged as a key lifestyle habit to improve our health. Did you know that our diet can also affect the health of our brains? In fact, along with oxygen, what we eat is the fuel for our brain. In the cognitive wheels for brain health, diet and nutrition is one of the key components of the model. Certain types of food can be risk factors for memory loss and dementia, whereas other foods promote brain health.

Detrimental foods

Consuming a diet high in sugar or processed foods may be detrimental to our brain health. Before purchasing or consuming foods, check food labels to ensure they are low in sugar and high in fiber. In addition, having a chronic condition such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or metabolic syndrome may also increase our risk for neurological diseases.

Beneficial foods

On the contrary, consuming a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables, dark berries and cherries, proteins, good fats (walnuts, salmon, tuna, avocados, canola oil), anti-oxidants, Omega-3’s and following the Mediterranean and DASH Diets can help enhance protective factors in our brains.

Lifestyle choices

Key lifestyle behaviors that can reduce our risk for chronic disease include engaging in regular physical activity, consuming a nutritious diet from the 5 main food groups, avoiding tobacco and tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding prolonged periods of sitting and attending regular check-ups and screenings.

The bottom line

As we have discussed throughout this brain health series, there is no magic bullet for preventing memory loss and dementia. Instead, we must use the knowledge we have gained through science over the past few decades to decrease our risk as much as possible through the seven different cognitive wheels.