Adding brain-boosting foods is only part of why many think the MIND diet had such powerful results. Decreasing brain drainers may have just as much (or more) impact on Alzheimer's risk. So what can you do now to start preventing mental decline? Focus on habits and foods that can boost your brain health and avoid those that negatively impact your body and your brain. By Jamie Vespa, MS, RD
Growing evidence seems to link saturated fat to lower cognitive function and both short- and long-term memory. Use brain-healthy olive oil instead, as diets rich in monounsaturated (and polyunsaturated) fatty acids may decrease risk of dementia. Research also indicates that swapping a portion of saturated fat in your diet with plant-based fats and whole grains may reduce your risk for heart disease.
Two factors that appear to play a role in the buildup of plaques and tangles in the brain are oxidative damage by free radicals and inflammation. Fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats like salami, sausages and the skin on chicken are rich in saturated fat, which should be limited to reduce inflammation.
A concentrated source of saturated fat, full-fat dairy should be consumed sparingly, because they cause inflammation in the brain. High-fat diets also lead to inflammation in other parts of the body and damage the hypothalamus area of the brain that regulates body weight.
Commercially fried foods tend to be high in saturated and trans fat which can induce inflammation. Studies show fast food causes strange effects on the body as well, including increasing impatience, making you eat too much too fast, getting you hooked on sugar, and putting you at a greater risk of depression.
Baked goods made with shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils are sources of trans fat. A diet low in both added sugar and trans fats may help reduce inflammation to lower risk of dementia. Sugar can also wreak havoc on your waistline and your overall health, so eat sweets in moderation, and avoid added sugar when possible.
Apart from the calories and the saturated fat, fried foods are often cooked in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (AKA trans fat), which can raise cholesterol and increase the chance of heart disease and stroke. Frying foods also destroys nutrients and puts you at great risk for Alzheimer's and other inflammatory conditions.