Mind your brain health by focusing on berries, nuts and salads

As part of the never-ending quest to persuade people to eat healthier, AARP is citing more than one basis for older adults to assume it will help their mental sharpness.

Like many such recommendations, it could be simplified as “Donuts bad, spinach good,” but AARP goes into a little more detail than that for those willing to read. 

First, AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health has released a report examining the impact of diet on adults 50 and older: “Brain Food: GCBH Recommendations on Nourishing Your Brain Health.” Long-term healthy eating habits — particularly a plant-based diet rich in leafy greens and berries — increase the likelihood of maintaining good brain health, according to the council’s consensus.

Secondly, AARP has released results of its 2017 Brain Health and Nutrition Survey. It involved interviews with more than 2,000 Americans 40 and older. As one might hope, people who consume the recommended average of two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables on a daily basis scored better for mental well-being and for self-assessed brain health.

The bad news there is that only 35 percent actually reported eating nutritious, well-balanced meals at least five days out of the week. That’s even though those surveyed who eat healthy foods most of the time were twice as likely to rate their brain health and mental sharpness as “excellent or “very good.”

“Maintaining a healthy diet is vital for good brain health and it is unfortunate that not enough people are aware of the risks associated with poor nutrition,” said Sarah Lock, AARP senior vice president for policy. “The most common reasons people gave for not eating healthier included that it was too difficult, too expensive, they weren’t a ‘healthy foods type of person,’ or their family wouldn’t like the taste.”

The AARP’s consultants on brain health lay out the the following recommendations:

1. Make a point of consuming non-juice berries; leafy greens and other fresh vegetables; fish and other seafood; nuts eaten in moderation; and healthy fats such as those in oils, including extra virgin olive oil.

2. It’s also good to include non-berry fruits, beans, poultry, grains and low-fat dairy products such as yogurt.

3. Limit the amount of fried food, pastries, processed foods, red meat, salt and whole-fat dairy products such as cheese and butter.

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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