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Want to know what to eat to prevent and remediate cognitive decline? We recommend a diet, introduced by Dr. Dale Bredesen in his New York Times bestselling book The End of Alzheimer’s, called the KetoFLEX 12/3 diet.  

What exactly is KetoFLEX 12/3? Let’s break it down. Keto refers to ketosis, the process by which your liver breaks down fat as an energy source and produces a compound called ketone bodies to fuel your brain. The Flex portion refers to two concepts. First, the diet promotes “metabolic flexibility,” the ability to burn either glucose or fat as fuel to maximize fuel supply to your brain. Second, the diet may be “flexitarian” or meat optional. 12/3 refers to the recommended daily fasting time, a minimum of 12 hours total with at least 3 before bed. A long daily fast promotes autophagy or cellular housekeeping— a process by which your body recycles worn-out cellular debris to make new cellular parts.         

KetoFLEX 12/3 is a heavily plant-based, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet that emphasizes local, organic, and seasonal non-starchy vegetables from every color of the rainbow, combined with an adequate amount of protein, and generous amounts of healthy fat.   

KetoFLEX 12/3 Tips

Here are ten helpful dietary rules that will help you maximize neuroprotection:

  1. Eliminate sugar, simple carbs (processed food),  grains, and dairy, which are inflammatory. 
  2. Vegetables, with a glycemic index lower than 35, should comprise the bulk of your diet. 
  3. Include a combination of deeply pigmented leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. 
  4. Don’t forget herbs, spices, and teas, which are often packed with even more antioxidants than vegetables.
  5. Include healthy fats such as those from avocados, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil. 
  6. Avoid the “Berfooda Triangle,” which is a dangerous triad of food: simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, and a lack of fiber; think cheeseburger, fries, and a soft drink. The lack of fiber leads to higher absorption of carbohydrates, which triggers inflammation and raises insulin levels.
  7. Don’t forget gut health! Include prebiotic fiber, resistant starch, and probiotic foods.  
  8. If you choose to include animal protein, prioritize low mercury wild-caught seafood and pastured eggs for brain-healthy DHA and choline.  
  9. Animal protein should be a condiment or side dish. One gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass per day is adequate for healthy people. Those over age 65 and those who are underweight, working to optimize GI health or healing from an underlying infection or surgery may have higher requirements until they can heal.     
  10. Eat heirloom fruit seasonally, such as wild crabapples in the fall. Berries, cherries, grapefruit, lemons, and limes can be enjoyed year-round. Always balance nutritive value against glycemic concerns. 

What to Eat to Beat Cognitive Decline

  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and alliums such as garlic and onions.
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, arugula, collard greens, and lettuces.
  • Herbs, spices, and teas, especially green and matcha.
  • Avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
  • Wild-caught fish, especially SMASH fish (salmon, mackerel [not king or Spanish], anchovies, sardines, and herring), which are naturally low in mercury.
  • Pastured eggs
  • Prebiotic foods such as  mushrooms, jicama, and leeks
  • Resistant starches such as legumes, rutabagas, parsnips, and green bananas
  • Probiotic foods with live active cultures  such as sauerkraut, kimchi, sour pickles, miso soup, and kombucha low in sugar
  • Wild berries, tart cherries, grapefruit, lemons, and limes

Avoid the Following Foods to Protect Your Brain 

  • Sugar and other simple carbohydrates, including bread, crackers, pasta, rice, cookies, cakes, candy, sodas (diet and regular)
  • Processed or refined foods
  • Grains
  • Dairy (Occasional A2 dairy may be considered)
  • High-mercury fish such as tuna, shark, and swordfish
  • CAFO meat and poultry (Grass-fed meat and pastured poultry may be considered)
  • Deer, elk, and moose due to chronic wasting disease 
  • Fruits with high glycemic indices, such as pineapple
  • Fruit juice

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