We can eat our way into cognitive decline, and we can eat our way out of it. That’s how important food is to our brain.
And my special guest today is going to serve up a heaping portion of information about that. Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.
I belong to a private Facebook group for people with MCI, and what I have today are outtakes from a Facebook Live I did with Nicole Gould, a functional nutritionist and wellness coach at Kemper Cognitive Wellness.
She offered great insights on food and cognition, and particularly the Keto Diet. It was a preview of a special workshop on the Keto Diet that she’ll be offering on Feb. 25. For more information on “Going Keto: A Virtual Workshop” or to register, visit the Kemper website here.
Today, I’ve pulled some of the best tips and insights from Nicole on brain-healthy eating in general and the Keto Diet in particular. It’s all in the video above, but here are excerpts of what she had to say.
What’s wrong with the American diet?
Everything we eat helps us or harms us; there aren’t any neutral foods.
Everything we eat either helps us or harms us, so there really aren’t any neutral foods.
The brain is in particular sensitive to foods. It uses up to 23 percent of the calories we consume and it’s very affected by needing fuel, by needing something to keep it going, but also needing nutrients to protect it.
When we compare (the Standard American Diet) to the diets that are the best for the brain, we look at areas of the world where they don’t have the amount of cognitive impairment and cases of Alzheimer’s and heart disease, those countries are eating a more Mediterranean-type, less processed diet.
But the American diet is over 65 percent from processed food. There are so many things we eat that are convenient, but are not helping us in any way with our health — lots of processed foods and sugar and very low amounts of the most beneficial group of foods to our brain, which is non-starchy vegetables.
Only one in 10 Americans is eating enough vegetables.
The Keto Diet: A very different way to eat
The Keto Diet is a completely different way of eating; it has to become a lifestyle.
The Keto Diet is a completely different way of eating and it has to become a lifestyle.
Basically, you are restricting carbohydrates to usually no more than 40 grams a day, to put that in perspective, that’s like an apple and one slice of bread or sometimes that’s one bowl of cereal.
I prefer, if you’re going to eat carbohydrates at all in a ketogenic diet, that it comes from non-starchy vegetables or maybe some berries, some blueberries, something that’s going to pack as much nutrition in it as you can get from all the carbs.
The protein is kind of moderate. It might be having a piece of chicken or wild fish or something that’s the size of the palm of your hand.
It’s the fats. You’re eating 70 percent of the Keto Diet from fats. So it’s a lot of nuts and seeds. It’s a lot of things like coconut and avocados. It’s olive oil drizzled on top of vegetables.
Does the Keto Diet pose the risk of raising cholesterol?
It’s on the radar, it’s something we are aware of. You will see mixed studies.
The cholesterol that we’re eating in our foods does not translate necessarily to cholesterol in the arteries.
We do tests. We test people initially, and we retest. It just depends on the person. For some, it lowers their cholesterol being on a ketogenic diet. For some, it does not change, and there are some, it will increase their cholesterol level.
This is a therapeutic diet. You want to have a health practitioner involved. You can have some sort of testing to monitor levels like that.
So yes, it’s on the radar, it’s something we are aware of. You will see mixed studies. We don’t know, because your individual biochemistry is completely different than even a twin, if you had one. It’s something to be aware of, and be cautious of. If it’s already high, we would really want to make sure we’re watching those levels.
But for most people, they can do it, especially if we’re talking about cognitive issues and mild cognitive impairment, and really trying to see if switching the (brain) fuel results in better memory and focus and concentration. That’s what we’re looking for.
If you’re interested in keto (or if you’re not)
It’s a great option. It’s pretty incredible the impact this can have for some people.
The Keto Diet a great option. It’s pretty incredible the impact this can have for some people. It doesn’t have the same impact for every single person. No diet does. At the workshop, we’re going to focus a lot more on how to do this.
And then if you’re sitting there thinking, “OK, I don’t know that I’m ready to go completely ketogenic yet,” the Mediterranean Diet is still emphasizing healthy fats, olive oil and avocados and nuts and seeds. There is no greater diet that has more research than a Mediterranean-type diet.
You don’t really have to check with your doctor before doing a Mediterranean diet. It’s just basic, overall healthy eating, real-food emphasized plan.
Any diet you’re looking at, that is the No. 1 think you should look at. Is it emphasizing real foods or a bunch of processed foods? Because that is what will determine whether it’s going to be a good diet or not very quickly.
Want to know more about brain-healthy eating and keto?
“Going Keto: A Virtual Workshop” is being offered by Nicole Gould and Kemper Cognitive Wellness on Feb. 25. To learn more or to register, visit the Kemper website here.
The full broadcast of the Facebook Live that Nicole Gould did with me in a private Facebook group for people with MCI on Feb. 10, 2021, can be viewed below.