By Dr. Angelina Riopel, ND

North Americans are living longer than previous generations but as lifespan increases, the risk of chronic disease does as well.

Chronic inflammation is known to have a negative impact on ourhealth by accelerating the aging process and degeneration of various organs including the brain.  Healthy food choices, following an anti-inflammatory diet, like The Mediterranean Diet and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, can help reduce inflammation, improve brain function and slowcognitive decline.  Research presented at the Alzheimer’s International conference in 2017 found that healthy older adults that followed Mediterranean Diet or a modified version, called the MIND diet reduced their risk of dementia by a third.

Foods that keep blood pressure normal, provide us with antioxidants, and maintain healthy bacteria in our gut, or microbiome, will serve to help keep chronic inflammation in check in the brain and entire body,” ~ Rudolph Tanzi.

There are number of important difference between the Standard American Diet (aka. SAD diet) and The Mediterranean Diet.  Below is a brief comparison of the two diets:

Standard American Diet (aka. SAD Diet) versus The Mediterranean Diet

SAD Diet

  • High in inflammatory foods including refined wheat products (like pasta and bread), diary, red meat, refined sugar, processed and fast foods
  • High in hydrogenated oils and trans fats which are found in industrialized oils and processed foods, and contribute to inflammation
  • Low in omega 3 and 9 fatty acids
  • Low in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, found in vegetables and fruit
  • Low in fish and a much higher intake of red meats 

Mediterranean Diet

  • Low in inflammatory foods
  • Low in in hydrogenated oils and trans fats
  • High in omega 3 and 9 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil, which support brain function and help to lower inflammation
  • High in anti-oxidants and phytonutrients from fruits and vegetables, which help protect the brain
  • Moderate amounts of animal proteins, mainly fish and poultry, low in red meat
  • Moderate amounts of alcohol, mostly wine and enjoyed with meals

Eating for a Healthy Brain

Keys to a Brain Healthy Diet

  • Keep blood sugar levels balanced. Diabetes has been found to double your risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean Diet
  • Avoid or moderate alcohol intake, and only consume with food
  • Avoid gluten if you have digestive concerns. Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) is a common digestive condition that often goes undiagnosed. NCGS is triggered by gluten and leads to inflammation in the gut and symptoms including gas, bloating, diarrhea and digestive discomfort.  The link being that chronic inflammation in the gut causes chronic inflammation in the brain.

Foods to consume often

  • A wide variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Raw nuts and seeds (approximately ¼ cup per day)
  • Beans & legumes
  • Ancient whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, oats, amaranth, spelt). Avoid gluten (wheat, rye, spelt) if gluten sensitive or if you have digestive concerns.
  • Good fats including extra virgin oil, avocado, nuts, seeds
  • Wild fish, especially sardines & herring
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kombucha)
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Fresh or dried herbs for flavour

Foods to consume in moderate amounts

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Wine

Foods to limit

  • Red meat
  • Dairy

Foods to avoid

  • Refined sugar and flour
  • Processed foods
  • Fast food
  • Avoid gluten (wheat, rye, spelt) if gluten sensitive or if you have digestive concerns