I recently finished reading the book “Brain Maker” by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter in which he asserts that everything about our health — how we feel both emotionally and physically — hinges on the state of our microbiome (the vast population of organisms that lives in our body — basically our gut’s bugs).
He says that our microbiome is the ultimate brain maker, and that our gut’s bugs are just as vital to health as our heart, lungs, liver, and brain.
To break it down a bit further, he traces all manner of disease back to inflammation (e.g. diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, dementia, etc.). Our immune system controls inflammation and the microbiome regulates the immune response.
He says that we can control our inflammation and brain health just by nourishing our microbiome, and that anyone can change the state of their microbiome — and the fate of their health — through dietary choices.
In fact, Dr. Perlmutter argues that the most significant factor related to the health of our microbiome (and in turn our brain health) is the food that we eat!
Eating for Optimal Brain Health
Before getting into the specific 50 foods, here are a few principles Dr. Perlmutter recommends we live by:
- Choose organic, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, high-quality fats, and foods free of toxic ingredients and antibiotics.
- A diet high in rich sources of fiber, from whole fruits and vegetables, feeds the good gut bacteria.
- Your main entrée should be mostly fibrous fruits and vegetables, with protein as a side dish. The ideal plate is a sizeable portion of vegetables (2/3 of your plate) and about 3 to 4 ounces of protein.
- Leafy greens and lettuces
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green Beans
Low Sugar Fruit
12. Bell peppers
Fermented foods / Probiotics (eat at least 1 fermented food daily)
19. Live-cultured yogurt
21. Kombucha Tea
24. Pickles (must be pickled in brine, not vinegar)
25. Picked fruit and vegetables (e.g. carrot sticks)
26. Extra-virgin olive oil
27. Coconut oil
28. Organic or pasture-fed butter
29. Almond milk
31. Nuts and nut butters
32. Cheese (except for blue cheeses)
33. Seeds (flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds)
34. Whole eggs
35. Wild fish (salmon, black cod, mahimahi, grouper, herring, trout, sardines)
36. Shellfish and mollusks (shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, clams, oysters)
37. Grass-fed meat, fowl, poultry, and pork (beef, lamb, liver, bison, chicken, turkey, duck)
Herbs, seasonings, and condiments
41. Herbs and seasonings
Nature’s healthy indulgences
42. Coffee (2–5 cups daily)
43. Wine (1 glass per day for women, 1–2 glasses for men)
44. Dark chocolate (no more than 2–3 squares per day)
Prebiotics (12 grams daily)
46. Raw Jerusalem artichoke
47. Raw garlic
48. Raw leek
49. Raw or cooked onion
50. Raw asparagus
And one more “drink” for good measure
51. Filtered water (chlorine-free)
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The majority of these foods and drinks are widely available in regular grocery stores, so I am definitely going to do my best build my diet around them. Perhaps it will work for you too.
In addition, Dr. Perlmutter recommends supporting this diet by incorporating exercise (at least 30 minutes) into your daily routine, and ideally going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day.
If you’re interested in the role of the gut in determining your brain’s health, I highly recommend reading “Brain Maker.” Dr. Perlmutter goes much deeper into the science behind this phenomenon, as well as how the microbiome can become damaged throughout life, and specific types of food to avoid. But hopefully this “cheat sheet” makes it clear how to eat to protect and preserve your brain.
Here’s to unlocking your brain’s full health and potential!