Best Foods for Brain Health & Function

Keeping your brain healthy at any age depends in part on diet and food choices. Knowing these top 10 brain healthy foods (and the foods to stay away from) will help protect your brain for the long run.

This list is from the MIND diet, a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet (all around good for you) and DASH diet (follow to reduce high blood pressure). The MIND diet highlights the food and nutrients that research indicates is associated a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

How much of a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease? A 35% to 50% reduction in risk, based on a study of nearly 1,000 older adults in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

Good food for good thought and memory, so to speak.


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The Top Ten Brain Health Foods

MIND Diet Spinach

MIND Diet Spinach

1. Leafy Green Vegetables (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, collards, arugula, etc)

Serving: 1-2 per day (about 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked)

Tip: Leafy greens are good sources of Vitamin K, folate, and beta‐carotene
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MIND Diet Vegetables

MIND Diet Vegetables

2. Other Vegetables (asparagus, green beans, carrots, potatoes, squash, eggplant, bell peppers, etc.)

Serving: 1-2 per day (about 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked)

Tip: Brightly colored vegetables are rich with antioxidants
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MIND Diet Berries

MIND Diet Berries

3. Berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, etc.)

Serving: 4-5 per week (about ½ cup)

Tip: Berries are rich in polyphenols that protect neuron health, with extra benefit from blueberries and strawberries.
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MIND Diet Whole Grains

MIND Diet Whole Grains

4. Whole Grains (100% whole‐grain bread & pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, etc.)

Serving: 3 per day (1 slice of bread, ½ cup brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal)

Tip: Whole grains are a good source of dietary fiber, and they also support cardiovascular health.
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MIND Diet Nut Mix

MIND Diet Nut Mix

5. Nuts (all nuts, with extra benefit from walnuts)

Serving: 1 per day (about 1/3 cup)

Tip: Nuts help lower high blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
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MIND Diet Lentils & Beans

MIND Diet Lentils & Beans

6. Lentils and Beans (Black beans, pinto beans, red beans, kidney beans, mung beans, etc.)

Serving: 4-5 per week (about ½ cup)

Tip: Beans are packed with low glycemic carbs & protein
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MIND Diet Fish

MIND Diet Fish

7. Fish (salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines & herring have most benefit)

Serving: 2+ per week (3 ounces cooked)

Tip: Fish is the best food source of Omega3 DHA & EPA, both necessary for a healthy brain.
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MIND Diet Poultry

MIND Diet Poultry

8. Poultry (chicken and turkey)

Serving: 3+ per week (3 ounces cooked, but not fried)

Tip: A better choice for a healthy heart and healthy brain versus red meat.
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MIND Diet Olive Oil

MIND Diet Olive Oil

9. Olive Oil (choose extra virgin olive oil)

Serving: Use olive oil as a replacement for butter and margarine, and as a primary cooking oil.

Tip: Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated fat, the type that helps reduce inflammation and promotes healthy blood vessel function.
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MIND Diet Wine

MIND Diet Wine

10. Wine (and beer, spirits)

Serving: One drink per day, no cheating, no “catching up” on the weekend.

Tip: Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) in the bloodstream. This health benefit quickly disappears with excessive alcohol use.

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Five Foods to Avoid for Brain Health

MIND Diet - Avoid These Five Foods

MIND Diet – Avoid These Five Foods

The MIND diet targets fast food, fried food, whole fat cheese, red meat, butter and margarine, and pastries (yes, including donuts) as the food groups to avoid.

These food groups contain very high levels of unhealthy saturated fat and refined sugar — eating a “fast food diet” leads to diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood pressure — the four dark horsemen of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is strongly linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Suggested serving: once a month or less, for each food group. Look at these foods as a very occasional indulgence.

Following a brain healthy diet like the MIND diet consistently over many years will offer the best protection. Recipes coming soon.

Curious to know more on the steps to maintain a healthy brain? Take the Healthy Brain Test and receive your free Brain Health Score.
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