Best diet for body and brain is plant-based

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In a world dominated by celebrity fad diets that range from
absurd, like Reese Witherspoon’s alleged “baby-food
,” to absurdly unaffordable, such as the $200 “moon
“-infused smoothie that Gwyneth Paltrow drinks, many
people don’t believe there’s a single best diet for your

But a growing body of
suggests that a plant-based
— which focuses on vegetables
while incorporating whole grains and lean proteins — reigns
supreme. It’s been found to be ideal for losing weight, staying
lean, and keeping the mind sharp.

Plant-based diets are “good for the environment, your heart,
your weight, and your overall health,” according to US News and
World Report’s most recent report
on the best eating plans.

Such diets come in many forms, but a new
suggests that the two best for protecting the
brain from age-related cognitive decline are the
Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet, a version of the
Mediterranean plan that focuses on “brain-healthy”

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The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole
grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish; it’s low in red
meat, processed foods, poultry, and dairy. The MIND diet
emphasizes green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries, beans,
whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Those
following this regimen limit or eliminate red meat,
butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets, and fried

Mediterranean and MIND for the mind

For the new study, published July 25 in the Journal of the
American Geriatrics Society, researchers looked at data from
close to 6,000 older adults who participated in a large
study on health and retirement. First, they asked
participants about their diet and the types of foods they ate or
did not eat. Then they measured their memory and attention
skills using reliable tests like word lists and backward
counting exercises.

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The researchers compared the participants’ diets to how they
performed on the cognitive tests. Those whose eating plans lined
up with Mediterranean and MIND-style diets did significantly
 than those on other types of diets did.

In fact, the more closely aligned their diets were with a
Mediterranean-style plan, the lower their risk of scoring poorly
on the brain tests.

“These findings lend support to the hypothesis that diet
modification may be an important public health strategy to
protect against neurodegeneration during aging,” Claire McEvoy, the lead
author of the paper and a nutritional epidemiologist at the
University of California San Francisco, wrote in the paper.

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Researchers still aren’t sure why these type of eating plans
appear to be so beneficial for the brain, but they have some

Both diets are rich in antioxidants and two types of healthy fat
— monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Previous studies have
found a link between these ingredients and a reduced risk of
as well as higher cognitive
. And the green vegetables and berries emphasized
in the MIND diet have been shown to help protect
against progressive loss of the structure or function
of brain cells
. This loss, known as neurodegeneration,
is a key characteristic of diseases like Parkinson’s and

But plant-based diets aren’t just good for the brain — they
have key benefits for the body as well.

Why plant-based diets are good for the body

, a nutritionist and dietitian at New York’s Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, told Business Insider that she
frequently advises her clients to ramp up their intake of
plant-based foods and cut back on red meat and refined
carbohydrates like white bread.

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To keep your energy levels up and help you feel healthy
in the long term, your diet needs to feed more than your
stomach, Anselmo told Business Insider. It has to satiate
your muscles, which crave protein; your digestive system, which
runs best with fiber; and your tissues and bones, which work
optimally when they’re getting vitamins from food.

A plant-based diet’s combination of whole grains, fruits,
vegetables, proteins, and fats accomplishes that goal.

This balance is also key to keeping you full after a meal and
energized throughout the day so you don’t feel the need to
overeat, Nichola
, a registered dietitian with a private practice in
the UK, told Business Insider.

“You need to have a balanced meal — things like whole grains,
fiber, and vegetables — in order to sustain your blood sugar.
Empty calories [like white bread or white rice] give a temporary
fix,” she said.

Plant-based diets also tend to reduce the risk of
certain diseases
including heart disease, diabetes, and some
types of cancer.

“When you look at overall dietary patterns it’s a more
whole-foods, plant-based diet that tends to be healthier in terms
of less disease risk,” Anselmo said. “People get caught up in
things like, ‘Well, how much iron or Vitamin C does this have?’
But the reality is that the whole foods are just going to
naturally be higher in those things.”