ENRICH-Approved Holiday Foods

The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with loved ones, and food is often at the center of these gatherings. Unfortunately, most stereotypical holiday foods are not the most brain-healthy. At ENRICH, we are focused on translating the best available science into straightforward recommendations to maximize brain health and minimize dementia risk. Here are few key brain healthy ingredients that we suggest you incorporate into this year’s holiday feasts:


  • Dark chocolate- Chocolate is typically considered a “cheat food,” but the dark variety is actually healthy when consumed in moderation. It reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, both of which are key in the development of many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • Beets- Beets are considered a “super food” because they are an excellent source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules. They also contain natural nitrates that boost blood flow to the brain, thus enhancing cognitive performance.
  • Kale, spinach, and other green, leafy vegetables- Leafy greens have incredible nutrient density, meaning that even a single serving is loaded with enough vitamins A and K to help quell inflammation in the brain.
  • Cinnamon- Cinnamon consumption has been shown to improve attention, memory, and visual motor speed. The spice helps stimulate the creation of new neurons in the brain and preserve the health of existing neurons.  It can also reduce blood sugar in those with type 2 Diabetes.
  • Blueberries, Cranberries, and Plums- These fruits contain anthocyanins and other polyphenolic compounds that have positive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Adequate consumption of polyphenolic compounds has been associated with lowered risk of neurodegenerative disorders. There have also been studies reporting improvement of cognitive performance in older adults who consume regular amounts of fruits and vegetables, inclusive of blueberries, cranberries, and plums.
  • Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and pecans- All of these nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6, and magnesium, each of which have brain-protective properties. People who consume omega 3 fatty acids on a daily basis have been shown to have a 26% lower risk of having brain lesions that cause dementia than those who do not.
  • Avocados- Avocados contain both vitamin K and folate, which prevent blood clots in the brain, thus protecting against strokes.
  • Sweet potatoes- Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C, which help reduce inflammation. Furthermore, they contain beta-carotene, which helps ensure optimal eye nutrition.

Suggested Dishes that Include These Ingredients

  • Sweet potato casserole with a cinnamon and pecan crumble
  • Berry cobbler dessert
  • Plum pudding
  • Dark hot chocolate
  • Beet, kale, and almond salad
  • Avocado, cranberry, and spinach salad

*NOTE: Try to minimize additions of butter and sugar

Those of us at ENRICH wish you a happy holiday season. In addition to trying the foods and dishes listed above, we suggest that you take advantage of your holiday downtime and use it as an opportunity to make some changes that will allow you to take control of your brain health in the New Year. Start by learning about ENRICH, a consumer-focused, multi-step set of tools that translate the best available science into straightforward information for individuals and families. Check it out at: https://enrichvisits.com/.

Madeleine Boudreau