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Why the Nordic Diet Is So Good for Your Brain

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Why the Nordic Diet Is So Good for Your Brain
The Nordic diet can lower the risk of dementia by up to a third. Photo Credit: Elena_Danileiko/iStock/GettyImages

The Nordic diet has been getting a lot of buzz this week, and not just because people are curious to learn how to eat like a Viking. According to new research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, the Nordic diet (along with the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet) is not only beneficial for heart health and fighting cancer, it may also be helpful in boosting brain health — lowering the risk of dementia by up to a third.

But what is it exactly?

The Nordic diet is a slightly modified version of the Mediterranean diet: It uses canola oil instead of olive and includes non-root veggies, fruits like apples, pears and peaches, grains, poultry, fish, tea, water and even a little wine. (Be sure to moderate your intake of both olive and canola oils, though, as just one tablespoon can be around 120 calories).

Researchers looked at the eating habits of 2,223 dementia-free Swedish adults who followed a Nordic diet over six years and found those individuals who stuck to the diet at a moderate or higher level were less likely to suffer significant memory loss and decreased cognitive function compared to those who ate processed and fatty foods.

“We found that some more specific foods within Swedish general eating habits may exert a significant effect on cognition that had seldom been considered by previous studies,” explained lead researcher Dr. Behnaz Shakersain.

Related research presented at the conference suggested that the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet (essentially a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the salt-reducing DASH diet) boosted brain health as well. Even those who didn’t follow the diet to the letter were still 18 percent less likely to demonstrate impairment.

“Eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with better cognitive function and around 30 percent to 35 percent lower risk of cognitive impairment during aging,” explained lead author Claire McEvoy of the Health and Retirement Study of the University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine.

“The shared characteristic of all these healthy eating patterns was the emphasis on higher intake of plant-based food. Yet we believe specific food items might be the main players in brain health,” says Dr. Shakersain.

If you’re considering getting on the heart-and-brain-healthy bandwagon, here is a great list of the best foods for your heart (as well as what to avoid).

What Do YOU Think?

Do you follow a Nordic diet? Will these findings motivate you to start eating more heart-healthy foods? Does the Nordic diet appeal to you? Tell us what you think in the comments!

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