A well-balanced diet boosts your brain health

Food may be the foundation for a healthy body, but can it affect your brain? Absolutely! In fact, diet is the number one risk factor for preventable disease and premature death worldwide. For that reason, Shad Marvasti, MD, the director of HonorHealth Integrative Medicine, says healthy eating ultimately boosts brain health.

"Food is medicine," says Dr. Marvasti. "This is not only true for our bodies but also impacts our moods and brain health. The key is to eat real foods and avoid processed foods or Frankenfoods as I like to call them. Processed foods are high in excess sugar and salt while being low in vital nutrients, including healthy fats, that are important for a healthy brain.”

Healthy fats and plant-based nutrients for a healthy brain

Denise Coventry, MS, RD, a registered dietitian for HonorHealth Integrative Medicine, works with patients to help them make healthy dietary changes to prevent and treat their medical conditions.

“Our brains need healthy fat and plant-based nutrients to thrive,” says Denise.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) and Mediterranean diets — both of which are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, beans and fish — are associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of older adults.

“These dietary patterns are found in the Blue Zones where people have healthy brains well into their 80s and 90s,” explains Dr. Marvasti.

“These diets contain healthy fats including fatty acids that are some of the main components of the nerves of the brain,” adds Denise. “The idea of eating these fatty acids is to give the brain the building blocks to keep the nerves healthy."


People often take supplements, particularly vitamins A, C and E, to help fill gaps in their nutrition, but there are potential dangers.

"Studies show that high doses of vitamins A and E can lead to an increased risk of cancer," shares Dr. Marvasti. "So, these antioxidants should primarily be obtained from nutrient-rich foods instead of taking supplements." Vitamin D is another popular supplement.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with an increasing risk for dementia as well as poor outcomes with certain cancers, heart disease and depression.

“Studies show that 42% of Americans are vitamin D deficient so it is important to consider getting this tested and then supplementing to reach optimal levels,” adds Dr. Marvasti.

Physical and mental exercise

Dr. Marvasti cites exercise, in combination with a Mediterranean-style diet, as key components to improving or maintaining brain health. He recommends getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week, along with strength training and mobility exercises.

Beyond exercising your body, you should frequently try new mental activities that stimulate and exercise your brain.

"You can't just do crossword puzzles every day,” says Dr. Marvasti “Try new things that challenge your mind. It's the newness of the activities that's important."

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