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Top Foods to Fuel Brain Health

Since the phrase, “You are what you eat” was coined by American nutritionist Victor Lindlahr in the late 1800s, it has continually been reinforced by scientific research. Consuming the right foods can improve overall health, as demonstrated by Dale Bredesen, M.D., author of The End of Alzheimer’s, to prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At the Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, in Naples, a patient’s nutrition and dietary habits are key components in Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Healthy Steps (PATHS), a research-based program that can improve cognitive function by inducing a state of nutritional ketosis—burning fat for brain fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Not everyone embraces the strict keto diet outlined in the PATHS nutrition plan, which requires a series of profound lifestyle and dietary changes. However, incorporating certain foods into a diet can put an individual on the path to better brain health.


Choose non-starchy, organic vegetables dark in pigmentation, which indicates higher nutrient density. Examples include artichokes, cilantro, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, onions, ginger, leafy greens, chard and mushrooms.

Healthy Fats

Incorporating healthy fats from macadamia nuts, olive oil, avocados, chia seeds and medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oils such as coconut oil into a balanced diet can provide excellent fuel for the brain.


Choose low-glycemic index, whole fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, as well as lemons, limes and green bananas. Avoid juices and tropical fruits like mango, pineapple and pomegranate.


Select high-quality protein sources from grass-fed, organic, free-range, non-genetically modified sources. Examples include organic, grass-fed chicken and turkey, and occasionally red meat: buffalo, venison, elk and lamb.


Rather than farm-raised, always select wild-caught fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring, as well as wild-caught oysters, mussels, shrimp and crab. Avoid tuna, halibut and shark that contain high mercury levels.


Choose eggs from free-range, organic hens with access to sunlight. They have darker yolks and thicker shells.


Green tea and herbal teas include phytochemicals and antioxidants that help improve memory and decrease oxidative damage to the brain. Filtered and/or spring water is essential for hydration and ketosis.

Bonus Tip

Try eliminating all grains from the diet for one month. Then slowly reintroduce gluten-free items as recommended by a physician.

Pamela Hughes, DO, is the founder of Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, located at 800 Goodlette Rd. N., in Naples. She provides patients with modern modalities and evidence-based, leading-edge functional and integrative medicine. For more information call 239-649-7400 or visit

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