One of the best ways to protect your cognitive health is through your diet. Like the old saying goes - you are what you eat - and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to your brain. Did you know there is a diet that has been scientifically proven to benefit brain health? Nutrition researchers have developed the MIND Diet, which combines both the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet.

The MIND Diet was specially designed to protect the brain from cognitive decline, and studies show that it lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia both in participants who adhere to the diet rigorously and those who follow it moderately well. Research has shown the MIND Diet to be especially protective of memory and perception.

The MIND diet is also easy to follow. There’s a set of healthy foods and unhealthy foods. That’s all there is to it. No calorie counting or restrictive guidelines.

Healthy foods include whole grains, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, fish, poultry, and berries. Use olive oil as your primary fat source.

Unhealthy foods aren’t banned, but should be limited. Each week, limit yourself to 4 servings of red meat, 5 or fewer sweets or pastries, and 1 serving of cheese, fried or fast food. Keep butter consumption to less than one tablespoon a day.

Habit science tells us that trying to make large changes to behaviors such as dietary patterns tend not to work as well as making small incremental changes. Try making a small step towards adopting brain healthy nutrition. Here are some ideas:

  1. Decrease unhealthy foods in your diet. If you eat sweets 6 days/week, start eating them only 5 days/week.

  2. Add healthy foods to your diet. If you don’t eat green leafy vegetables, try to include spinach or kale into two of your meals this week.

  3. Swap out an unhealthy food for a healthy choice. Try eating fruit instead of candies, or grilled chicken instead of fried chicken, or use olive oil instead of butter.