Healthy Diet...Healthy Brain | Alzheimer's Prevention Registry

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February 20, 2018

Healthy Diet...Healthy Brain

By Alzheimer's Prevention Bulletin


Healthy Diet...Healthy Brain: Global Council on Brain Health Recommendations

The 2017 AARP Brain Health and Nutrition Survey found that 75 percent of those who said they ate well five to seven days per week also rated their brain health/mental sharpness as excellent or very good. 

The Global Council on Brain Health was convened in September 2017 by AARP with support from Age UK. The goal was to agree upon the best possible advice about what older adults can do to maintain and improve brain health. This was a true “meeting of the minds” – 11 experts from four continents representing fields such as nutrition, geriatric psychology, neuroscience, physiology and public health. The group critically examined and discussed the prevailing research regarding diet and brain health for those 50 and above and came to consensus on the following recommendations:

Encourage (eat regularly):

  • Berries (not juice)
  • Fresh vegetables (in particular, leafy greens)
  • Healthy fats (such as those found in oils including extra virgin olive oil)
  • Nuts (a high calorie food, so limited to a moderate amount)
  • Fish and seafood


  • Beans and other legumes
  • Fruits (in addition to berries, which are encouraged)
  • Low-fat dairy, such as yogurt


  • Fried food
  • Pastries
  • Red meat
  • Red meat products
  • Whole fat dairy, such as cheese and butter
  • Salt

In addition: 

  • If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start drinking in order to protect your brain health. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Eat whole, non-processed foods to limit unintentional intake of too much salt, sugar and saturated fats, which often appear in processed, packaged and fried foods. 
  • Be cautious when it comes to eating chocolate. Cocoa-rich products are generally high-calorie.
  • Avoid trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils).

Making a Healthy Diet Part of Your Lifestyle

Dr. Luchsinger noted that while recommendations provide guidance regarding a healthy diet, they are often based on research conducted in very structured settings. 

“The key is implementing these recommendations into one’s day-to-day life, making sustainable choices that work for you in terms of time, money and motivation,” he says.

On that note, the Council went one step further and created a list of practical tips designed to help incorporate its recommendations into people’s lifestyle. These include: 

  • Stay physically active
  • Avoid eating in excess
  • Eat at least one meal per week with fish that is not fried
  • Look at the sodium content in prepared foods you are eating – baked goods, canned soups and frozen foods (except fruits and vegetables) are typically high in salt 
  • Use vinegar, lemon, aromatic herbs and spices to increase flavor without increasing salt content
  • Consider dietary counseling if you are trying to overcome conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or obesity
  • Snack on raw, plain, unsalted nuts – in moderation
  • Eat a wide variety of different colored vegetables
  • Choose fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables stored in water or their own juice
  • Purchase food and prepare meals at home to give you control over salt, sugar and fat
  • Use mono and polyunsaturated fats in cooking (extra virgin olive, canola, corn and safflower oils)
  • Read packaged food labels to help you choose healthier options

“The bottom line was that no one food provides the key to good brain health. Rather, it’s a combination of healthy foods that are likely to protect the brain. We’ll likely see continued research in this area,” says Jose Luchsinger, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center. “Making wise choices about your diet is something you can do to promote brain health and choosing healthier options more often can have long-term benefits.”

Looking to be a part of continued research? Check out lifestyle-related studies and other studies currently in need of volunteers at