As the old saying goes, “What’s good for the heart is good for the head.” When it comes to healthy eating and exercise, that statement is doubly true.
The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association teamed up for a study that showed that the same dangerous plaque that can build up in the arteries can also affect your brain. Hardened arteries can starve the brain and the heart of blood, leading to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
The brain needs a healthy heart in order for brain cells to receive blood and work well. If your heart isn’t healthy, your brain cells have a harder time getting the oxygen it needs.
The good news is that a few changes to your diet can have a big impact on both your heart and brain health.
The Heart and Brain Nutrition Plan
Looks like the Greeks and the Italians had it right all along. Researchers have found that people eating traditional foods in Italy and Greece were much healthier compared to Americans and other Westerners. In fact, they had a lower risk for many lifestyle diseases and heart failure. In addition, those following a traditional diet that included fresh vegetables, fish, and olives had a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, the American Heart Association, and the Alzheimer’s Association, the Mediterranean diet might just be the best “healthy eating” plan out there for whole body health.
The Mediterranean diet is full of fish, nuts, vegetables, olives, whole grains, and those dark leafy plants that are so vital in maintaining healthy brains. The diet, according to the research, may also help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease as well as lower bad cholesterol that’s responsible for clogging arteries.
This diet includes more than just food choices and recipes. Because it is a lifestyle plan, eating meals with family and friends and being active are vital components to getting the most benefit from it.
Other key aspects of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
- Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
- Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
- Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
- Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
- Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
The Mediterranean diet isn’t your only way to boost brain power. Foods you may find in your refrigerator right now have mind medicine, too. For instance, whole grains are rich in B vitamins, which help preserve memory by reducing inflammation. Eggs and egg yolks contain protein and vitamins B, D, and E, which also help with preserving memory.
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as cod, tuna, and halibut help both the brain and the body by lowering triglyceride levels. This can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots.