New Study: How Your Diet Could Be Hurting Your Memory, Mood and Bright Ideas

by | May 9, 2024 | Nutrition

Here’s some food for thought: what you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mental well-being. Recent research has lifted the lid on what’s in your Tupperware, showing that the right dietary choices won’t just spark improved brain health, but could also boost cognitive function and leave you feeling happier.

The University of Warwick study looked at the eating habits of more than 181 000 people by conducting various health assessments such as blood work, brain scans, genetic analysis and cognitive tests. The participants’ food choices were collected as part of an online survey and categorised under 10 different food groups.

READ MORE: One Meal a Day: Does the OMAD Diet Actually Work?

Using AI, the researchers sifted through the data to find out how participants’ food preferences impacted their mental well-being. The result? Those eating a balanced diet had overall better mental health, sharpened cognitive ability and greater brain volume than those falling short of their all-important macros. 

Are There Any Diets Aimed at Boosting Brain Power?

Yes. The aptly named MIND diet combines the best of both the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) to help beef up your noggin’. As a result, you’ll be primarily noshing leafy greens, berries, fish, nuts, oils and wholegrains; a list of ingredients that have been proven to have a positive effect on your mind.

READ MORE: These Are the Healthiest Diets in the World, According to Experts

The diet was ranked as the third-best in the world by a panel of experts, only slightly beaten out by its Med and DASH counterparts.

What Are Foods I Should Eat to Max Out My Mental Gains?

There’s a plethora of brain-boosting foods out there and the MIND diet will introduce you to most of them. But if you just want some simple sub-ins, we’ve got you covered. Chow down on some of these to get your daily dose of brainpower.

1. Spinach

bowl of raw spinach on countertop
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Popeye’s superpower could be yours, too. Spinach is a massive source of folate, a chemical that’s involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that help regulate your mood, sleeping patterns, memory and learning capabilities.

2. Olive Oil

The vitamin E in this kitchen staple acts as an antioxidant to keep your brain sheltered from excess free radicals that can ramp up your risks of oxidative stress. One study found that just half a tablespoon of olive oil every day could have a significant impact on your dementia risk. Bonus: it could also help reduce your risk of dying prematurely.

3. Oily Fish

One study found that people with higher levels of omega-3s (a compound found in abundance in oily fish) also had increased blood flow to their noggins. Researchers also revealed higher levels corresponded with sharper cognitive abilities.

READ MORE: Research Reveals How Diet Cooldrinks Can Affect Your Metabolism

4. Dark Chocolate

Got a craving for something sweet? Reach for a dark chocolate slab that packs at least 70% cocoa. Sweet treats with high percentages of this delicious ingredient can provide plenty of flavonoids, a compound that might help boost blood flow to your brain. Studies have found that eating dark chocolate could also help improve your memory.

5. Berries

bowl of various berries showing healthy brain diet
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Much like dark chocolate, most berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. A review found that this key ingredient could not only improve comms between brain cells but also help these cells form new connections, ramping up memory and learning.

6. Walnuts

Rich in omega-3 fats, snacking on walnuts could help fuel your lightbulb moments. These nuts can also increase levels of the fatty acid EPA which has been shown to help regulate levels of the hormone dopamine, potentially having a positive impact on your mood.

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