Healthy Diet... Healthy Brain, National Brain Week,18th to 24th December 2018

Dr. Shailesh Darji DM Neurology
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healthy diet for healthy brain
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     18th December is the IAN (Indian Academy of Neurology) foundation day so every year, week starting from 18th December is celebrated as National Brain Week (18th to 24th Dec). The National Brain Week is an occasion to create public awareness and interest about neurological disorders, in particular, preventative aspects thereof. This year’s theme is about healthy diet for healthy brain.

     Research on the impact of the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) in particular have provided critical evidence on how diet can potentially affect brain health. Increasingly, research is showing that a healthy diet is crucial to optimal brain health.

     The experts agreed that foods and diets that are good for heart health are also good for brain health, lending support to the adage, “what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” In support of this, some recent studies evaluating the incidence of dementia among large groups of people over several decades have found decreases in the age-adjusted incidence of dementia occurring simultaneously with improvement in cardiovascular health.

     Based on various studies and recommendations following important points as per highlighted by “The Global Council on Brain Health” can be considered as a healthy diet for healthy brain.

1. Common conditions influenced by diet such as elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes harm both cardiovascular and cognitive  health. Therefore, a heart healthy diet is a brain healthy diet, as vascular factors remains same.

2. Long-term healthy eating habits promote good brain health.

3. You can benefit from changing to a healthy diet at any age. However, the sooner you start the better.

4. The typical, contemporary Western diet (high in salt, sugar, excess calories, and saturated fats) is not good for the brain.

5. No single food acts as a silver bullet for improving or maintaining brain health. The combination of different types of food and nutrients  together  in our diets likely determines health benefits.

6. A plant-based diet that is rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, particularly green-leafy vegetables and berries, is associated with better brain health.

7. Food containing omega-3 fatty acid seems to benefit cognitive function. Good vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acid is soybeans (roasted),  walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds and flax seeds.

8 .Multiple studies link high levels of saturated fat with cognitive decline. A diet that is higher in unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats is linked to better cognition.

9 .Excessive alcohol is bad for brain health. If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start drinking in order to protect your brain health. If you drink alcohol,  do so in moderation, because it is unclear whether there is any beneficial level of consumption for brain health.

10.Excessive salt intake can contribute to high blood pressure. Because high blood pressure is an important risk factor for stroke, and strokes are  detrimental to cognitive health, excessive salt intake is harmful for your brain health.

11.So, encourage to take berries (not juice), fresh vegetables (in particular leafy greens) healthy unsaturated fats (such as those found in oils, including extra virgin olive oil), nuts (a high calorie food, so limit to a moderate amount) and foods reach in omega-3 fatty acid

12.Diet should include beans and other legumes, fruits (in addition to berries, as previously mentioned), Low fat dairy product such as yogurt and  grains.

13.Fried food, pastries, processed foods, whole fat dairy, such as cheese & butter and salt intake should be curtailed to minimum.

14.Eat whole, non-processed foods to limit unintentional intake of too much salt, sugar, and saturated fats, which often appear in processed,  packaged and fried foods.

15. Be cautious when it comes to eating chocolate. Cocoa-rich products are generally high calorie because they often include sugar and high fat dairy products. Therefore, when incorporating chocolate in your diet, it is important to avoid excess weight gain, which could counterbalance,  or even exceed, any benefits from eating cocoa.

16.Avoid trans fats like crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies, and other baked items, snack foods (such as microwave popcorn), frozen pizza, fast food, potato, corn and tortilla chips.


     It is never too late to start eating a healthy diet, such as those suggested above. Improvements in your diet can help your brain health and lower your risks of cognitive decline whenever you decide to start. Making small practical changes, such as those recommended here by the GCBH (The Global Council on Brain Health), is a useful and sustainable way to maintain a healthier diet. These can then be built upon by incorporating additional changes to build a brain healthy lifelong dietary pattern.