People in their late 80s with higher blood levels of B, C, D and E vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids (found in good fats) did better on cognitive tests and had less of the brain shrinkage typical of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study led by Gene Bowman, a scientist at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland.
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A University of Miami study found that individuals who ate a Mediterranean diet, including vegetables, fruits, small amounts of meat and fish, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, had less small blood-vessel damage in the brain. Other studies have highlighted the apparent dementia-fighting benefits of leafy greens and vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower.
What you don’t eat matters, too. Artery-clogging trans fats are a clear no-no, and a recent Mayo Clinic study found that eating fewer than 2,150 calories a day was linked to better brain health.
Simply popping vitamin pills probably won’t protect the brain, says Bowman. “There are hundreds or thousands of different molecules in foods we eat,” he says, so it’s likely that eating a balanced diet is key to staving off dementia.
Mary Ann Johnson, a University of Georgia nutrition scientist and spokesperson for the American Society for Nutrition, agrees. “It really reinforces how fundamental healthy eating is to our well-being,” she says.
Further research is needed to confirm the diet/brain health link. In the meantime, consider eating more of the following foods to help protect your brain: