Food for Thought

Much as what we eat has a profound effect on our physical fitness, so too does our diet influence our cognitive fitness. And while there is no scientific evidence that adopting a singular diet regime prevents cognitive decline, incorporating certain foods, and minimizing intake of others may positively impact cognitive function, potentially reducing the risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s and improving memory.

The following tips are brought to you from Monica Marcella, MS, RD, RVNAhealth’s registered dietitian and nutrition educator.

Get Fishy

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health substantiated a long-standing belief that omega-3s found in fish are linked to improved memory, improved learning ability, and reduced rates of cognitive decline. Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial and should be eaten two-three times per week, whenever possible. This includes mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies. If you do not eat fish, enjoy flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybean oil to meet your daily omega-3 goals.

Go Green

Vegetables, particularly green leafy ones, are rich in antioxidants, which decrease inflammation throughout the body. RVNAhealth Registered Dietician Monica Marcello, MS, RD, suggests making mealtimes colorful by incorporating several different vegetables and one fruit. This may decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and may improve memory and overall cognitive function.


Cut the (bad) Fat

All fats are not created equal. Saturated fat, found in red meats, fried foods, cheese, and high-calorie baked goods raises unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Instead, reach for foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, olive oil, and most nuts (staples of a Mediterranean diet) which may lower LDL levels. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital study examining the nutrition/memory relationship revealed that participants who ate saturated fats from foods like red meat and butter “performed worse on tests of thinking and memory than women who ate the lowest amounts of these fats.”

Consider the MIND Diet

The MIND diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Research studies have found that the MIND diet may reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease dementia. The MIND diet encourages 10 food groups to enjoy, and 5 food groups to avoid/limit.

10 Foods to Eat on the MIND diet

  • Green leafy vegetables: At least 6 servings a week
  • All other vegetables: At least one a day and choose non-starchy veggies for their low calorie/high nutrient ratio
  • Nuts (a variety of kinds): 5 servings a week
  • Berries (like blueberries or raspberries): 2 or more servings a week
  • Beans (all beans, lentils, soybeans): 3 or more servings a day
  • Whole grains (oatmeal or quinoa): 3 or more servings a day
  • Fish (like salmon or trout): 1-3 times a week
  • Poultry (like chicken or turkey): 2 times a week
  • Olive oil: Use it as your main cooking oil
  • Wine (optional and approved by your physician)

5 foods to limit on the MIND diet

  • Red meat: Less than 4 servings a week
  • Butter and margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily
  • Cheese: Less than 1 serving a week
  • Pastries and Sweets: Less than 5 servings a week
  • Fried or Fast food: Less than 1 serving a week

While nutrition is one factor in maintaining optimal cognitive function, small lifestyle improvements can also have maximum impact, including daily exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and minimizing stress. For a nutrition evaluation, contact RVNAhealth’s Monica Marcello, Registered Dietician and Nutrition Educator at or by calling 203-438-5555.

Recommended Posts