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By Mary Martin Nordness

For centuries, consumers have known that what they eat and how much can play a role in their health, but only until recently have studies shown that food also may play a role in keeping our brains healthy. While most Americans consider brain health the second most important component in maintaining a healthy lifestyle - right after heart health - they often have no idea they can help to fight off cognitive decline with better nutrition. And with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, and Americans living longer, it’s more important than ever to know the steps to protect your brain health.

Currently there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, research shows that small changes with regard to what you eat can work to prevent cognitive decline and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. According to The Lancet, a United Kingdom medical journal, it is possible to reduce the risk of cognitive decline with a combination of eating a healthy diet, strength training, aerobic exercise, brain games and controlling weight and blood pressure.

The following eating tips can help to feed your brain and keep it, and you, in top condition.


  • Follow the DASH and Mediterranean diets: The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH, diet links fruits, vegetables and dairy foods to lower blood pressure. Combining regular exercise with the DASH diet can improve mental activity by 30 percent in overweight adults. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes plant-based foods and healthy fats like olive oil, also may protect the brain by preventing atrophy and maintaining brain structure in old age.


  • Drink your milk: A new study shows milk can help prevent age-related cognitive diseases. The University of Kansas Medical Center found a link between drinking milk and levels of an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce chemical stresses on the brain, which are linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Low levels of Vitamin D also have been shown to increase the risk of dementia, so eating Vitamin D-fortified dairy such as yogurt and milk can help stave off cognitive decline.


  • Eat berries: Berries, like strawberries and blueberries, may help protect the brain and reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Try incorporating more berries into your diet with a strawberry yogurt smoothie or berry breakfast bars.


Making small changes to your diet today may help feed your brain so it performs well in the future! Feeding your brain more fruits, vegetables, dairy and healthy fats can protect your memory and keep your mind sharp into old age.

You can find a variety of easy recipes, including ones packed with Vitamin D, berries, whole grains and healthy fats. Visit southeastdairy.org, like Southeast Dairy Association on Facebook, follow us on Twitter at @TheDairyRD or on Pinterest at sedairy.

Mary Martin Nordness, M.A., R.D., L.D., C.H.E.S.,  is a registered dietitian and certified health educator. She serves as nutrition affairs director for the Southeast Dairy Association, where she conducts television, radio and print interviews on nutrition throughout Alabama and the southeast. Nationally, she has been interviewed for WebMD, Cooking Light, Teen Vogue and Eating Well magazine. In 2015, she was awarded the Spotlight Alumni Award from Samford University’s College of Human Sciences, and in 2013 she was recognized as “Outstanding Dietitian” by the Alabama Dietetic Association.



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