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The DASH Diet: Good for Heart Health and Brain Health

U.S. News & World Report rates The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) as the “best overall” and “healthy eating” plan to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. New research shows that the DASH diet may even lower blood pressure effectively as blood pressure medications.

Maintaining good heart health is vital to good brain health.

Science supports the notion that eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats, as recommended in the DASH diet is also best for your body’s most important organ – the brain. The “pitfalls” of the Western diet – excessive red meat, refined sugars and carbohydrates like white pasta/bread and processed foods high in omega-6 fatty acids or “bad fats” can cause inflammation in many cells in our body. Research has identified inflammation as a potential culprit in the development of many diseases including brain disorders.

How does what you eat affect your brain?

Food rich in antioxidants can help neutralize harmful waste products. These waste products can damage the brain as it ages. The Mediterranean diet:

  • Improves blood flow to the brain
  • Reduces inflammation
  • May even protect against the formation of damaging plaques in the brain

The typical Western  “high inflammatory” diet – like eating highly processed foods, red meats and fried foods – can cause damage to brain cells that can possibly contribute to developing dementia.

A recent study evaluated the eating habits of 7,085 women, ages 65 to 79, over nearly 10 years and calculated Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) scores for each one.  During the course of the study, 1,081 of the women were diagnosed with cognitive impairment. Higher DII scores among those women were associated with greater cognitive decline and earlier onset of cognitive impairment.

Cook and eat real food. “Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

The DASH diet focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains along with fish, poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy. For more information, visit my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16907-dash-diet.

Also visit healthybrains.org/pillar-nutrition for information on how dark chocolate, spices, coffee or tea and red wine (in moderation) can add other brain nutrients and flavor to your brain health diet.

For healthy recipes that are beneficial to your brain, visit healthybrains.org/recipes.

*This article first appeared on healthybrains.org. Healthy Brains is an initiative of our research partners at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.








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