10 foods that make your brain almost a decade younger — and you can still eat cake

Many researchers believe that some loss of your brainpower is inevitable as you age. But scientists at the Rush University Medical Center say that eating the right foods can turn back the clock and make your brain act like it’s almost a decade younger.

That’s great news considering the strides and discoveries that are enabling us to live longer, healthier lives.

A five-year study at the Rush Memory and Aging Project found that eating the MIND diet can significantly improve your brain’s memory. The MIND diet is a hybrid meal plan that combines the DASH diet (a heart healthy diet called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet.

U.S. News recently ranked both of these diets #1 and #3 in their Best Overall Diet category, respectively, so it should be no surprise that combining the best of both of them would provide mind-blowing results.

MIND is an acronym for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. And researchers found that when a group of senior citizens with a an average age of about 81 years old ate this diet, they scored about 7.5 years younger on tests of their brains’ cognitive abilities than did seniors who did not consume these foods.

Eating for a youthful mind

The MIND diet divides foods into 15 groups. Ten of these groups are OK to eat (the brain-healthy foods) and five groups are severely limited.

The brain-healthy foods of the MIND diet include:

  1. Nuts: Eat five servings weekly
  2. Leafy green vegetables: Eat six or more servings weekly.
  3. Other vegetables: Have at least one serving daily.
  4. Beans: Consume two or more servings per week.
  5. Poultry: Eat these foods two times a week
  6. Olive oil: Use this oil exclusively when cooking or in salad dressing.
  7. Fish: Have fish once a week.
  8. Wine: Drink one glass daily.
  9. Berries: Eat at least two servings weekly.
  10. Whole grains: Eat at least three servings a week.

On the MIND diet, the researchers advise generally avoiding or limiting:

  • Red meat: Have three or fewer servings a week.
  • Sweet desserts like pastries, cookies and cakes: Four or fewer per week.
  • Cheese: Less than a serving weekly.
  • Margarine or butter: No more than a tablespoon daily.
  • Fast food or fried food: Less than a serving weekly.

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A toast to your youthful brain

While you may be surprised to find wine on the list of recommended brain-healthy foods, research does show that the brains of wine drinkers age better.

The reason? Resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes, is an amazing antioxidant that’s reported to support hormone levels, fight cancer, combat the physical signs of aging, and contribute to a longer life.

On what other diet could you raise a glass of wine when you next dine on a delicious dinner from the brain-healthy list of foods, toast your good health, good fortune and youthful brain — and enjoy a modest serving of dessert if you wanted to?

A little cake, not more than four times a week as noted above, won’t “un-do” the effects of the healthier foods you’re eating, so you don’t have to feel like a slave to a super strict diet routine. It reminds me of something Dr. Cutler wrote, “You don’t have to adopt the ‘health craze du jour’ and turn your life into a mess of neurotic, health-obsessed drudgery to get your best health.”

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.