Mind Your Eating and Help Your Mind
It is well known that our gut and brain have a strong relationship. This gut-brain connection includes various transmitters and proteins that facilitate cognition. Some specific neurotransmitters and pathways connect these two biological systems. A significant amount of research has shown that our gut microbiome (the various bacteria within our gastrointestinal tract) can substantially impact overall health. Several species of bacteria can benefit the inner lining of our gut and reduce the risk of inflammation. These bacterial species can also reduce the risk of vascular diseases within our body, including the brain vessels. Specifically, Akkermansia muciniphila and bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera appear to reduce the risk of inflammation within various areas of our body. Inflammatory diseases are the primary cause of most chronic medical conditions, including cognitive dysfunction and dementia. One of the effective ways to decrease the risk of cognitive decline and decrease the impact of early memory loss is to focus on physical activity, socialization, and dietary interventions. One of the specific nutritional patterns that has been promoted as an effective way to treat patients with underlying cognitive decline is called the MIND diet.
The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a mechanism to promote brain health and diminish the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The diet emphasizes consuming nutrient-dense plant-based foods, such as leafy greens, berries, nuts, and beans, and reducing the intake of processed and high-fat foods.
Here are some of the specific components of the MIND diet and how they may help reduce cognitive decline:
- Berries: Berries are a great source of antioxidants, which help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation and are known to contribute to cognitive decline.
- Leafy greens: Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are rich in minerals and vitamins, including vitamin K and folate, linked to improved cognitive function.
- Nuts: Nuts are full of healthy fats, fiber, and vitamin E, effectively decreasing inflammation and protecting against cognitive decline.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber, linked to better cognitive function, and provide essential vitamins and minerals that may support brain health.
- Fish: Fatty fish, such as salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health and are associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
- Poultry is a component of the MIND diet as a lean protein source. While it is not as prominently featured as other foods on the MIND diet (such as leafy greens, berries, and nuts), poultry is considered a healthy protein source. Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, is generally lower in saturated fat compared to red meat, making it a healthier protein option.
- Olive oil has a high content of monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and polyphenols. Polyphenols are plant compounds that appear to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. These components of olive oil have been shown in observational studies to protect against cognitive decline.
The MIND diet emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense foods full of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins linked to improved brain health. When focusing on eliminating processed and high-fat foods, the diet may also help reduce inflammation, contributing to cognitive decline. For those individuals who want to pursue a proactive course of action to preserve their physical and cognitive health, these nutritious guidelines are perfect for keeping in MIND!