If you’re training for an athletic event, you probably think twice about what you eat to properly fuel a long run. And you’re likely aware of the connection between a healthy diet and heart health, but evidently fewer people make the connection between eating habits and brain health. That’s what the AARP found when they surveyed more than 2,000 Americans aged 40 and older last fall to examine their eating habits and see how well they understood the relationship between nutrition and cognition.
The survey came on the heels of a report from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) that outlined recommendations for a brain healthy diet. The GCBH found that a plant-based diet rich in green leafy vegetables and berries contributes to better brain health, while a diet high in red meat, saturated fats, sugar and salt can harm your brain health.
For optimal cognition, especially as you age, they recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and healthy grains, choosing olive oil instead of butter and omega-3 rich fish in lieu of red meats. The upshot: eating smart is a win for head and heart.
The survey found good news and bad:
- The good: Adults who eat at least the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables report better brain health and have higher average mental well-being scores. Those who consumed more servings of fruits and vegetables have even better brain health and mental well-being scores.
- The bad: Most adults age 40 and older are not getting the proper nutrition. Virtually no one consumed the recommended number of servings in all five food groups and one-third did not consume the recommended amount in ANY food group.
Unfortunately there’s no one magic food, vitamin or silver bullet supplement to protect and nurture brain health. Instead, the research finds that an overall healthy balance and pattern of eating that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, fish and healthy fats and limits salt, sugar, highly saturated fats and empty calories (junk foods and sodas) is the smart way to boost brain health.
According to the survey, more than 60 percent of adults age 40 and older said that they would eat more fish, less red meat, and lower their dairy fat intake if they knew it was good for their brain health. So reach for the fruit bowl and spread the word!