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Your shopping list for brain health

June 25, 2019

Rosemary Weaver, MPH, RDN, LDN, Clinical Dietitian at the NCH Wellness Center 

Recent research suggests that the Mediterranean diet may be a means to keep your brain healthy throughout your life. This diet, low in added sugar and saturated fat, emphasizes omega-3-fatty acids, vegetables, legumes, fruits and whole grains as well as moderate amounts of olive oil, nuts and avocado, all sources of primarily monounsaturated fatty acids.

The MIND diet – a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH diets – which additionally emphasizes berries and leafy greens, is showing promise as a means to specifically lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For a total brain supporting strategy, it’s important to combine dietary efforts with regular exercise, socialization and intellectual pursuits. 

Here are some foods to consider putting in your shopping cart on your next trip to the grocery store:


☐ Fish: Salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna (These four are highest in omega-3s.) Aim for a 4-ounce serving, two to three times a week.

Nuts and seeds

☐ Flaxseed or flax meal (Watch quantity. More than 2 tbsp. per day may cause loose stools.)
☐ Walnuts 
☐ Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios; Brazilian nuts, filberts, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds (raw or roasted, preferably unsalted). (Watch portions. Keep nuts to a serving of 1/8 cup to no more than ¼ cup/day for calorie control.)
☐ Nonhydrogenated nut butters: Look for natural versions without salt, such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini.


☐ Leafy greens: Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, mixed greens
☐ All fresh and frozen vegetables, including carrots (rich in carotenoids) squash, onions and tomatoes (rich in lutein)


☐ Black and white beans of all varieties; lentils, chickpeas (If buying canned, look for reduced salt varieties or at least rinse beans under water before serving.)


☐ Blueberries (May help protect the brain from oxidative stress.)
☐ Other fresh, frozen, unsweetened canned and dried fruit (Include citrus and an apple daily. Wash apples well and eat the peel.)
☐ Pomegranate seeds or juice (If juice, limit to 2 oz./day limit. Dilute with ice or sparkling water.)

Whole grains

☐ Oats, whole wheat, kamut, rye, farro, millet, quinoa, brown rice

Good Fats

☐ Avocado
☐ Olive oil


☐ Coffee (1-2 cups/day) can help focus; may prevent neurogenerative disease in moderation


☐ Tea bags/black or green to make freshly-brewed tea (Try 2-3 cups/day, hot or iced. Contains caffeine and catechines, which are disease-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants.)


☐ Dark chocolate (½-1 ounce a day will provide all the benefits you need, including antioxidants, stimulants and endorphins, which improve mood.  Remember, eat in moderation.) 


☐ Turmeric (contains anti-inflammatory properties)
☐ Oregano, other fresh herbs

Learn more about the NCH Wellness Center’s programs, equipment and specially trained staff that can help you achieve all of your fitness and nutrition goals. Call 847-618-3500 to become a member.