Brain Food

I recently read Brain Food, the Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, by Lisa Mosconi, PhD. Here are my notes. If you want to know the ‘why’ for any of these items, I highly recommend reading the book. In it, Dr. Mosconi lays out the scientific basis for each of these items.

Excerpt: “A new diet known as the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet) makes the Mediterranean diet easier to follow no matter where one lives in the world. Its core principles are: three servings of whole grains plus a salad and one additional vegetable every single day, along with a glass of [red] wine. Legumes are eaten every other day, while poultry and berries are included twice a week. Fish is consumed once a week. Additionally, to have a real advantage against the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s, dieters are encouraged to limit foods considered unhealthy, especially fried or fast foods but also high-fat dairy and meat. If that sounds too demanding, here’s some incentive: the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously.”

Follow a Mediterranean Lifestyle

—A Mediterranean lifestyle is a synergy of exercise, water, nutritious foods, brain stimulation, socialization, stress relief, sleep
—What’s good for the heart is good for the brain
—Buy and eat quality over quantity
—High-quality fish and shellfish: good for brains, reduces risk of memory loss and dementia
—Foods high in essential omega-3 fats (esp. DHA) = brain food
—Brain-essential antioxidant vitamins, minerals, good carbs, good fats, lean protein
—Less fat, animal protein, salt, sugar

Being sedentary makes the brain age faster

It doesn’t need to be rigorous. 30 minutes every day of moderate-intensity activities (brisk walking, bicycling, gentle swimming, housework, gardening, taking the stairs). The goal is consistency and frequency…and to keep moving.
—My routine
* Move More: 250 steps each hour to break up periods of sitting
* Aerobics: 20 minutes/day (brisk walking /or/ elliptical glider)
GOAL: 45 minutes/day
* Strength Training: 2 x week (RBG Workout—weights, bands, planks, push-ups)
* Flexibility Activity: 2 x week (yoga, tai chi)

Dehydration accelerates brain shrinkage

—Eight 8-ounce cups of water per day (filtered or spring)
—Alternatives: herb teas, fruit-infused water, lemon-infused water
—Clean drinking water: Install a water filter that leaves minerals in
—Morning Tonic: 1 shot Tahitian noni juice, followed by a glass of water with 1 fluid ounce aloe vera juice and a teaspoon of liquid chlorophyll (start with 1/4 tsp.)

The brain needs specific nutrients to thrive


Vegetables (1 cup or more, twice a day)
Eat with both lunch and dinner. Leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables (organic, non-GMO) Spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens, watercress, mustard greens, arugula, collard greens, bok choy, chicory, radicchio, colorful lettuces + broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage
Additionally: Add fresh asparagus, green beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers, winter squash, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, zucchini, beets, fennel  (organic, non-GMO)
Berries (1/2 cup, twice a day)
Raspberries, blackberries, red currants, boysenberries, gooseberries, goji berries, mulberries, black cherries
Whole Grains (1 cup—or 1 slice organic whole grain bread—twice a day)
Steel-cut oats, organic brown rice, amaranth, millet, spelt, kamut, buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice, as well as products made from these grains, such as Ezekiel bread. Sprouted products preferred.
Legumes (1 cup, twice a day)
Chickpeas, lentils, split peas, adzuki, black, cannellini beans


Yogurt (1 cup, once a day)
Organic, full-fat, plain, unsweetened, with active probiotics
Other Fruits—(1 cup, once a day)
CITRUS (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tangerines, mandarin oranges). APPLES (Gala, Red Delicious). OTHER TREE FRUITS (1/2 cup) Plums, peaches, pears
Oils: (2 tablespoons, once a day)
Unrefined extra virgin olive oil, cold-pressed & unrefined flaxseed, coconut, and avocado oils (avocado oil is best for cooking, has a high smoke point). Whole avocados (1/4), olives (4-5)
Chocolate: (1 oz., once a day)
High quality very dark chocolate (75%, or more, cacao)
Coffee: (2 cups, once a day) (or 1 demitasse of espresso)
Green Tea: (2 cups, once a day)
Red Wine: (Women: One 5-ounce glass, once a day) (Men: Two 5-ounce glasses, once a day) Avoid if you can’t be moderate. Alternative: pomegranate juice
Green Juices & Smoothies (once a day as a snack if the calories are ok)
Add leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, water
Antioxidant Additions to Meals
Brazil nuts, cacao, goji berries, almonds, chia, flaxseeds. Add to smoothies, soups, salads, stews


Nuts & Seeds (2 tablespoons, every other day)
Raw, unsalted. NUTS: almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios SEEDS chia, flax, sunflower, hemp, sesame, pumpkin (toast them yourself). Add to smoothies, soups, salads, stews


Fish & Shellfish (3+ ounces, 2—3 x week)
Fresh or frozen wild-caught salmon (Alaska, sockeye), halibut, sea bass, mackerel, cod, trout, Bluefin tuna, yellowtail tuna, canned tuna in water, canned wild Alaskan salmon, shellfish (esp. oysters and shrimp), anchovies, salmon roe & black caviar (2-3 teaspoons)
Okinawan Sweet Potato (half a sweet potato, 2—3 x week)
Organic, non-GMO
Nut Butters: (2 tablespoons, 2—3 x week)
Organic almond or hazelnut butter
Mushrooms: (10 ounces, 2—3 x week)
Anti-inflammatory, Vitamin D, selenium, neuron-protecting spermidine


Eggs: (1-2 eggs, once or twice a week)
Steamed or poached (from free-range, organically-fed chicken)


Tofu:  (golf ball size, once a week)
Organic, non-GMO
Poultry: skinless (3 oz., once a week)
Free-range, organic feed chicken, duck, turkey, Cornish hens, pheasant, quail
Cheese: (1-2 oz., once a week)
Naturally low fat sheep and goat cheeses (which are also naturally grass-fed): chèvre, Pecorino, feta. Also Romano, Parmesan, aged cheddar, ricotta, Dry Jack


Milk: (grass-fed, organic)
Use sparingly for coffee, tea, whole grain morning cereals. Alternatives: unsweetened organic nut milks.
Use sparingly—local raw honey, organic maple syrup, coconut sugar, organic brown rice syrup, yacon syrup, blackstrap molasses, fruit purees, fruit butters, dried fruits like medjool dates. If eating low carb, use stevia.

Help for specific issues

Omega-3 DHA: 300-500 mg/day, for those over 60 and those who don’t eat fish
Choline: 300-600 alpha-GPC mg/day /or/ 420 mg/day (aka, phosphatidylcholineon) for days you don’t eat fish
B Complex: (make sure it has 50 mcg of B12) for people 50 or older, especially for people with gastritis, Crohn’s, celiac, diabetes
Probiotics: Best: 1 cup probiotic yogurt, daily. Alternative: probiotic supplement with live cultures. Improves brain function.
Coenzyme Q10:100-200 mg/day, esp. if 60 or older. To replenish reserves from previously bad diet. Powerful antioxidant.
Ginkgo biloba extract: 240 mg/day if fairly sedentary. Cognitive function.
Red panax ginseng: 4 grams/day. Cognitive function.
—If taking a multivitamin, try to take one without copper, iron, zinc. Make sure nothing is over 50% RDA.

These foods increase the rate of cognitive decline


Salt: Except when cooking, then use unrefined sea salt and/or pink Himalayan salt. Alternatives: tamari, coconut aminos, nutritional yeast, miso paste, Bragg liquid aminos, herbs and spices)
Beef & Pork: No more than 1x month, always pasture-raised, grass-fed, antibiotic-free—roasted, grilled, or sautéed
Poultry Skin: It’s saturated fat
Soy Products: Unless they’re non-GMO and organic
Spirits: Keep consumption to no more than 2-3 times a month. Quantities: beer (12 oz.), distilled liquors (1 ounce). It would be best for your brain to not drink these at all.


SugarAlso sodas, energy drinks, candy, fruit juices. Alternatives: See “Sweeteners,” above.
Dangerous Fats
Trans fats: *Always Check Labels* Trans fats are frequently found in crackers, bakery products (cookies, cakes, muffins, pastries, doughnuts, frozen pies), chips, frozen pizza, fired fast food, margarine & vegetable shortening, some microwave popcorn, non-dairy coffee creamer, refrigerated biscuits, cinnamon rolls, ready-to-use frosting
Partially-Hydrogenated Oils & Shortening: Found in fried foods, French fries, mozzarella sticks, battered food, chips, candy, cookies
Saturated fatsFound in n meats, poultry skin, eggs, cheese, butter, sausage, bacon 
Refined Oils High In Omega-6: Grapeseed, sunflower, corn, soybean, sesame, and peanut oils.


Processed MeatsSausages, hot dogs, salami, ham, bacon, salted/cured meats, corned beef, smoked meats, dried meat/jerky, canned meats
Fast Foods
Refined Grains: Anything made with flour, or that is otherwise processed, is ‘refined’—i.e., white rice, white bread, corn bread, breakfast cereals, commercial baked goods, etc.
Condiments: Unless homemade without sugar 
Unhealthy Additives: Lecithin, polysorbates, polyglycerols, carboxymethylcellulose, carrageenans, xanthan gum, guar gum, propylene, sodium citrate, and mono- and di-glycerides

Cardiovascular disease is a major risk factor for dementia
Heart disease is not only modifiable, but also largely preventable

—Use a Body Mass Calculator to see if you need to lose weight—HERE
—Eat less calories than you expend
—Exercise daily (3,000-7,500 steps, or 30-40 minutes of swimming, dancing, etc.)
—Eat a good breakfast, good-sized lunch, and a small, early dinner
—Eat a Mediterranean diet with low/no grains, legumes and animal fats. Reintroduce after weight loss.
—Intermittent fasting: Make sure there’s 10-12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Next level: eat normally 5 days a week. For the remaining 2 days, eat no more than 600 calories per day.
—Avoid alcohol until weight loss has begun, limit to 1 glass red wine only, remember that wine’s calories count.

“Use it or lose it”

—Activities: Writing, reading, practicing music, painting, knitting, gardening, research
—Learn: A language, musical instrument, software, sport, dance, tai chi, take an online course
—Games: Crossword puzzles, board games, chess, cards, word games like Scrabble
—Break Routines: Driving routes, doing chores with non-dominant hand, new musical genres, where one sits, eats, walks

A loving brain results in a happier and longer life

—Connect with: Friends, family, acquaintances
—Make love, give and receive massage
—Volunteer: At a charity, museum, school/day care, prison, homeless shelter, park, library
—Teach: Music, art, writing, sports, yoga, cooking, sewing, dancing, hiking, gardening, any skill that you can share
—Join Clubs & Groups: Writers & book lovers, musicians & music lovers, artists, collectors, hikers & walkers, gardeners, swimmers, travelers, exercisers, sportspeople
—Take Classes: Art, writing, gardening, rowing, cooking, yoga, tai chi, Pilates, swimming, audit college classes, go back to school

 It is very important to take whatever steps necessary to reduce stress
and enjoy your journey on the planet

—Yoga, meditation, tai chi, gardening, nature walks, massage, slow swimming, listening to calming music

Sleep cleans the brain of toxins

—GOAL: 7-8 hours
—Nap if needed, between 1-4:00 in the afternoon is best
—There are relaxing teas that can help