The phrase “you are what you eat” applies to your brain as much as any other part of your body.
You may think of eating healthy to keep your body functioning well physically, but a new study shows a good diet goes a long way for your mental health as well.
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) released a report recently, concluding that diet impacts brain health – a good diet can strengthen the brain and reduce the risk of dementia.
The report breaks down many foods into groups to gravitate toward, and others to avoid.
Foods that encourage brain health
According to the study, foods you should eat regularly to improve brain health include:
- Berries (not juice)
- Fresh vegetables (leafy greens, in particular)
- Healthy fats (like ones found in oils, including extra virgin olive oil)
- Nuts (limit to a moderate amount due to high calorie content)
- Fish and seafood (not fried)
Foods to include in your diet
The study lists these foods to include a moderate amount of in your diet:
- Beans and other legumes
- Other fruits (along with berries)
- Low fat dairy (such as yogurt)
Foods that your brain doesn’t like
The GCBH recommends limiting these kinds of foods in order to keep your brain working at its best:
- Fried food
- Processed foods (including frozen meals)
- Red meat
- Red meat products
- Whole fat dairy (such as cheese and butter)
The study notes that processed, packaged and fried foods contain too much salt, sugar and saturated fats. This also applies to frozen meals. However, frozen vegetables and berries are typically low in salt and retain the nutrients that are in their fresh counterparts.
What about coffee, wine and chocolate?
We’ve all probably justified a glass of red wine, some coffee or a chocolate dessert by saying that it’s good for us. But, this study is inconclusive on all three.
Short-term effects of coffee or tea are shown to increase awareness and brain performance due to caffeine, but the GCBH reports that the long-term effects are less understood.
Cocoa flavonoids often found in dark chocolate have also shown some short-term cognitive benefits, but also nothing in the long-term. Also, the study warns against eating too much chocolate, as the high sugar and calorie amounts can negate any benefit to the brain.
The benefits of a glass (about five ounces) of red wine are mainly associated with a Mediterranean diet, the report claims. Antioxidants in red wine can help keep your blood pressure in check, but the diet itself can improve your brain health. It’s high in healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish.
So, enjoy your indulgences, but don’t go overboard. Which leads us to…
Moderation is key
As with just about anything, doing it in moderation is best. As the study puts it, “too much of a good thing is often not good either.”
The report also contains practical tips such as staying physically active, reading food labels and trying to prepare meals at home as much as possible.
The GCBH also warns that no single food is a magic potion for brain health. It’s a combination of these foods that will lead to a healthy lifestyle that will align your physical and mental well-being.