As we all know, diet is quite controversial. Nutritional science is one of those areas that continues to evolve rapidly, seeming to contradict itself along the way, particularly around fats (good vs bad); carbs (hi vs low); and proteins (plant vs. animal).
And while the answers on all of the above are likely to be somewhat different for different people, there are some areas of common ground, such as:
> Eat lots and lots of vegetables
> Avoid processed foods and processed white flour
> Avoid sugar—the Standard American Diet is called SAD for a reason, and part of it is that the average American eats 66 lbs of refined sugar a year! Meaning some of us are eating 100+ lbs a year. Don’t be that person!
Sugar consumption is one experiment with our bodies and our brains that I choose not to participate in (any more!) I do have a sweet tooth, but I attempt to keep it contained to a little dark chocolate, maybe some dates, or berries, a little honey. And I try to keep it at that.
When it comes to more comprehensive dietary approaches to brain health, The Mediterranean Diet, or one of its variations, is seen to be most helpful as described in this overall literature review.
Mediterranean Diet in Preventing Neurodegenerative Diseases
Tahira Farooqui and Akhlaq A. Farooqui have also edited an entire book on the Role of the Mediterranean Diet on the Brain and Neurodegenerative Diseases, which is abstracted here.
This was further backed up in this study out of Northern Ireland.
Certain Dietary Patterns Linked to Cognitive Performance
Ketogenic Diet’s are also being studied by many. While they are controversial overall, they show promising results in studies like this one out of Italy:
Clinical Applications of Ketogenic Diet-Induced Ketosis in Neurodegenerative and Metabolism- Related Pathologies
It certainly seems like becoming more fat-adapted, and being able to access ketones as an energy source in addition to glucose, can be beneficial to one’s health and one brain. Many authors, including Dave Asprey in HeadStrong, have pointed out the importance of this, and the overall role of increased mitochondrial health leading to improved brain health.
I was personally most helped by Mark Sisson’s book, The Keto Reset Diet. I found his moderate approach to ketosis, fats and carbohydrates to be an ideal introduction, and a relatively easy to follow way to test the benefits of a more ketogenic approach, without following some of the more radically low-carbohydrate approaches.
One of the best things about his recommendations is that they lead you squarely away from processed foods, processed white flour, sugars, and low-quality fats and oils that are the hallmarks of the standard American diet (SAD!)
There are also lots of studies suggesting brain benefits for particular foods, including:
Nutritional Supplement Boosts Benefits of Physical Rehabilitation in Patients With Parkinson’s or Parkinsonism, Study Shows
Mouse Studies Suggest Protective Effects of Caffeine in Parkinson’s Disease
Researchers Identify Coffee Component That May Provide Neuroprotection
Dark Chocolate May Help With Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
Wine Grapes (or maybe just one compound within them):
Astilbin, Found in Plants, Protects Neurons and Improves Motor Control, Mouse Study Finds
Fish diet to prevent Parkinson’s? Fishy claim more like.
And in one of the most powerful and interesting recent studies, Mushrooms:
Eating mushrooms may reduce the risk of cognitive decline
Disclaimer: I offer all of these suggestions not as a Doctor or Researcher, but as a Patient, and a “Citizen Scientist”. None of this should be taken as medical advice, and certainly you should consult your Doctor when it comes to making decisions about your health.