Source: Graphic art by Michael Nelson

We previously blogged about how healthy eating can promote good brain health. In this post, we’d like to introduce The Brain Health Food Guide. This guide combines results from longitudinal studies and clinical interventions to capture the most consistent evidence linking eating with brain health. It is designed to be maximally flexible for individual food choices, and even lets you eat your favorite snacks in moderation. It focuses on an overall pattern of healthy eating, not on one specific so-called "superfood." The Brain Health Food Guide provides general tips, and specifics on foods to include, and foods to limit.

Some General Tips

  • Choose color. Include colorful fruits and vegetables in each meal
  • Grill, steam, and bake foods, instead of frying or deep frying
  • Add beans or legumes to soups, stews, stir-fries
  • Snack smart. Reach for nuts, fresh fruit, vegetables, and low fat yogurt
  • Keep hydrated. Drink water or unsweetened beverages
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
  • Go low fat in your milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main culinary oil

Foods to Include

  • Vegetables - ½ cup (1 cup of leafy greens) five or more times a day. Be sure to include raw leafy greens at least one time a day, and cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, bok choy) three times a week
  • Fruit - One medium fruit or ½ cup four or more times a day. Be sure to include berries (fresh or frozen) three times a week
  • Unsalted Nuts or All-Natural Nut Butters - ¼ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons nut butter one time a day. Be sure to include walnuts four or more times a week
  • Beans or Legumes - e.g., chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, ½ cup two or more times a week
  • Fish or Seafood - 3 to 4 ounces three times a week. Be sure to include fatty fish (e.g., salmon, trout, sardines) one or more times a week

Foods to Limit

  • Meat and Poultry - 3 to 4 ounces one time a day or less, with red and processed meats less than once a week
  • Butter, cream, and high-fat dairy spreads - 1 teaspoon butter, 1 tablespoon cream, less than once per week
  • White bread - One slice or ½ bagel, less than once a week
  • Pre-packaged foods, salty or fried snacks, store bought dairy desserts, baked goodies (especially store bought), candy and chocolate, pop, sweetened fruit juice, and other sugary drinks - Three times a week or less at recommended serving sizes

This guide was developed by Drs. Matthew Parrott and Carol Greenwood at Baycrest and other members of the Nutrition, Exercise, and Lifestyle team, of which I am the Clinical Trial Leader. This team is part of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging study, which is a Government of Canada initiative, also supported by several national, provincial and industry partner organizations.

About the Authors

Kelly J. Murphy, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Kelly Murphy, Ph.D., is a Clinical Neuropsychologist at Baycrest and an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

Angela K. Troyer, Ph.D., C.Psych.

Angela Troyer, Ph.D., is the professional practice chief of psychology and the Program Director of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Health at Baycrest. She is also an assistant professor of psychology.

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