4. Binge on blueberries ... as well as strawberries, spinach, kale and butternut squash
Brightly colored fruits and dark green vegetables are rich in carotinoids and flavonoids — powerful antioxidants that boost BDNF and may slow the onset of dementia by repairing the damage from free radicals, unstable molecules that attack healthy cells.
In a recent study, researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that older women who ate two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries a day were able to forestall memory decline by 2-1/2 years. Green vegetables are also high in magnesium, a potent nutrient in the war against inflammation (see sidebar).
Tip: Aim for four to five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Besides the ones mentioned above, try avocadoes, red grapes and raisins, raspberries, plums and prunes, spinach, beets, asparagus, sweet red peppers, sweet potatoes and citrus fruits.
If you take any medications, check with your doctor before adding to your diet grapefruit, which can cut the effectiveness of a host of drugs, including many statins and antihistamines.
5. Slash trans fats
Trans fats are processed fats added to foods to extend their shelf life. These fats are double trouble — they both raise blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and lower levels of "good" cholesterol.
Bowman's research suggests they are also bad for the brain. When his team checked the blood levels of certain nutrients in 104 elderly participants, they found that those high in trans fats had significantly lower cognitive performance and less total brain volume than those who ate a more healthy diet.
Tip: Buy and prepare fresh foods as often as possible. Packaged and processed foods are full of trans fats, so read labels and if you see "partially hydrogenated" anything, don't buy it. Common culprits: french fries, chips, packaged baked goods, crackers, icing, stick margarine (tub margarine has less trans fat) and microwave popcorn. If you can't or won't cut out foods with a lot of trans fat, eat less of them, less often.
Next page: Skip sodas and sports drinks. »