While the study does state that eating more plant-based and limiting foods high in saturated fat (and animal products in general) can help support brain and heart health, they specifically call attention to two groups of superfoods in the plant-based sphere: berries and green leafy vegetables.
The study focused on a particular style of plant-based eating known as the MIND diet, which was “developed as an intervention to help reduce cognitive decline and fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia,” according to certified dietitian and nutritionist Isabel Smith, R.D., CDN.
The new study, based on data from 2,512 participants, found that diets designed to help support heart health also had benefits for brain health. “Our findings highlight the importance of adherence to the MIND diet for a better cardiovascular health,” explained corresponding author Vanessa Xanthakis, Ph.D.
For a point of reference, this diet is a sort of blend between the immensely popular the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and was designed to help manage or prevent high blood pressure. And of course the Mediterranean diet has its origins in heart health research: it was studied while observing the diets and overall health of seven countries, in relation to heart disease risk. Therefore, it’s not a big jump to see how the diet could also lead to heart health benefits, even when that wasn’t the intent of the eating style.
The MIND diet has its own unique attributes, too. One of the key components, according to Smith, is the way this diet emphasizes leafy green vegetables—which the researchers call out. “A few star veggies include spinach, kale, and collard greens, which have been found to be particularly beneficial for brain health due to their source of folate, vitamin E, and carotenoids,” she shares.
Another food group the recent research notes is berries—another differentiating component of the MIND diet. “This diet emphasizes eating berries—specifically blueberries and strawberries—as the primary source of fruit and doesn’t emphasize any other fruit,” writes Smith, who further explains it specifically “suggests two or more servings of berries a week (perfect guidelines for a yummy antioxidant smoothie).”