Maximizing your brain fitness

Eat healthy

While food is the fuel for our body and muscles, eating a healthy diet has the potential to aid in maintaining brain fitness and improving mental function [1,2]. On the other hand, mid-life obesity [3] or high blood pressure [4] pose a serious risk for developing dementia and a balanced dietary regimen in adult life should be adopted not only as preventive measures of these conditions but also in the scope of protecting neurons from prolonged damage.

Eating a balanced diet that includes at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is thought to contribute to risk reduction. A typical Mediterranean diet is often considered to be a brain-healthy diet [5]. This typically involves:

  • eating protein in the form of oily fish (high in brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids), nuts, pulses or beans, eggs, poultry and lean meat, avoiding large quantities of red meat.
  • eating good amounts of fruit and vegetables (5 portions is a good starting aim and even seven to ten portion is recommended by some).
  • steering clear of large amounts of sugar and salt
  • Consuming less saturated fat and more monounsaturated fat (such as that found in olive oil and in oil from nuts and seeds)
  • switching to eating whole grain, bread and pasta
  • a glass of wine is a common part of a Mediterranean meal-time. One glass of wine a day may be beneficial for brain health. Excessive consumption of alcohol is to be discouraged in maintaining brain fitness.

[1]       Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci 2008;9:568–78.

[2]       McEvoy CT, Hoang T, Sidney S, Steffen LM, Jacobs DR, Shikany JM, et al. Dietary patterns during adulthood and cognitive performance in midlife: The CARDIA study. Neurology 2019;92:e1589–99.

[3]       Ott A, Stolk RP, Hofman A, van Harskamp F, Grobbee DE, Breteler MMB. Association of Diabetes Mellitus and Dementia: The Rotterdam Study. Diabetologia 1996.

[4]       Association of Midlife to Late-Life Blood Pressure Patterns With Incident Dementia | Dementia and Cognitive Impairment | JAMA | JAMA Network n.d. (website accessed February 21, 2020).

[5]       Scerri NV and C. Mediterranean Diet and Dementia of the Alzheimer Type. Current Aging Science 2013. (website accessed February 21, 2020).