Food for thought

Food for thought

New report highlights importance of diet on brain health

Age UK has examined a recent report produced by experts from around the world who have examined the evidence to date on the impact of diet on brain health in adults aged 50 and over. They found that foods that are good for our heart are also good for the health of our brains. The report from the Global Council of Brain Health (GCBH) also concluded that it’s never too late to improve your diet and see positive results.

Through eating a combination of different types of food, such as leafy greens, berries and good fats in the form of extra virgin olive oil and omega-3 rich fish, people can expect long-term health benefits.

Among the advice given on what to include in your diet, the report also warns people of all ages to go easy on the amount of salt, wine, caffeine and chocolate they consume, if they want to maintain their brain health as they grow older.

Whilst it appears there is no single magic ingredient when it comes to improving brain health, the best foods to include in your diet regularly, and the things to avoid, are listed below:


  • Fresh vegetables (in particular leafy greens)Healthy food - Free for commercial use No attribution required - Credit Pixabay
  • Healthy fats (such as those extra virgin olive oil)
  • Nuts (a high calorie food, so limit to a moderate amount)
  • Seafood


  • Fruits (in addition to berries, previously mentioned)
  • Low fat dairy, such as yogurt
  • Poultry
  • Grains
  • Beans and other legumes


  • Fried food
  • Pastries
  • Processed foods
  • Red meat
  • Red meat products
  • Whole fat dairy (such as cheese and butter)
  • Salt

The team of experts also recognised that barriers to healthy eating can include a lack of time to prepare food and the potential expense. However, there are a number of quick wins for people of any age wanting to improve their diet, such as:

  • Seek out green leafy vegetables and berries
  • Eat nutrient dense food in sensible portion sizes (it can be helpful to use smaller plates to start with)
  • Rinse canned foods to remove excess salt and sugar
  • Add lemon, spices and herbs instead of salt
  • Cook at home instead of eating out
  • Make an effort to try new vegetable each week
  • Drink fizzy water in place of fizzy, sugary drinks

James Goodwin, Chief Scientist at Age UK, said:
‘The great value of this report is that it spells out in an uncomplicated way what we know for certain about diet and brain health and what we can do to maintain our brain health by eating wisely. Though there is no ‘silver bullet’, making simple changes to what we eat, along with other vital lifestyle changes, can make a big difference over our life time.’

Though the GCBH is confident that the evidence shows a heart healthy diet is also good for brain health, the relationship between diet and prevention of cognitive decline and dementia needs further research.

The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world working in areas of brain health related to human cognition.

The GCBH is convened by AARP with support from Age UK to offer the best possible advice about what older adults can do to maintain and improve their brain health.