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Alzheimer’s Disease

Boost Brain Health With a Plant-Based Diet

Plant-based foods are beneficial to the brain and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Diet and Brain Health

A decline in brain health is not an inevitable part of aging. But how we eat and live can help us protect our memory and stay sharp into old age.

Research shows that saturated and trans fats found in dairy products, meats, pastries, and fried foods can increase the risk of cognitive decline.1 Saturated fat and cholesterol can build up in the blood vessels and form plaques in the brain, which compromise blood blow to important parts of the brain.2 In the Adventist Health Study comparing meat eaters and vegetarians, it was found that dementia is more common among meat eaters.3

Instead, eat a plant-based diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, which helps protect brain health. Populations that have higher intakes of plant-based foods have a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.4 In a study that tracked the intake of fruits and vegetables of women for 11 years, it was found that women who ate the most green leafy and cruciferous vegetables had less decline in brain function compared with women who ate these vegetables less frequently.5 These foods are high in both folate and antioxidants, two important nutrients for healthy brain function. Berries and foods rich in vitamin E, including nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains are especially beneficial.6

Key Nutrients

B Vitamins (B2, B6, B9, B12)

B vitamins, specifically B2 (riboflavin), B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are involved in the metabolism of homocysteine. When a diet is too low in B vitamins, this can lead to high levels of homocysteine in the blood, which can increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease and heart disease.7 Good sources of B vitamins include beans, lentils, orange juice, asparagus, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, edamame, tofu, nuts, bananas, and avocados. Make sure to include a B12 supplement to preserve nerve function since there are limited plant-based food sources of B12. Avoid supplements with metals, such as iron, zinc, and copper, as these can be harmful for brain health.8 Work with your physician to discuss appropriate supplementation.


Omega-3s are essential fatty acids. They play an important role in cellular function and in maintaining heart health, brain health, kidney function, eye health, and skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids are readily available in a wide variety of plant foods. Sources include walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, hemp seeds, edamame, seaweed, and algae. Other green leafy vegetables and beans also contain small amounts. 

Plant-derived omega-3s come in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid. Our bodies cannot synthesize it, so we must consume ALA through our diets. The body naturally converts ALA into longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for brain health, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). 

Vitamin E

Foods rich in vitamin E—including nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and whole grains—are especially beneficial for brain health. Increasing vitamin E intake from foods is associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.9,10 Vitamin E in the form of supplementation has not been associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.11

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for reducing inflammation, involvement in cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, glucose metabolism, and bone health.12 In a study with 1,658 elderly adults free from dementia and cardiovascular disease, it was found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a large increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.13 The natural source of vitamin D is sunlight. If you do not get regular sunlight, vitamin D is also available in vitamins and in fortified foods. Many brands of cereal and plant milks are fortified with vitamin D.

Other Factors to Consider

But diet isn’t your only line of defense. Make sure to lace up those sneakers and exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep for optimal brain health.14 Not only should you keep your body physically active, but you should also prioritize social and mental activities, as well.15 Avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption for optimal brain health.16

Choose aluminum-free products including cookware and baking powder.8 Reduce your exposure to chemicals and other environmental contaminants, such as pesticides and air pollution, as much as possible.17

Plant-Powered Prescription for Alzheimer's Disease

  • Replace cow’s milk, cheese, and yogurt with nondairy alternatives to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Replace processed and red meat with plant protein from beans and tofu.
  • Aim for at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables) daily to increase antioxidants and fiber in your diet.
  • Consume plenty of B vitamins in your diet by consuming beans, lentils, orange juice, asparagus, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, edamame, tofu, nuts, bananas, and avocados.
  • Meet your daily omega-3 needs with at least 1 tablespoon of chia, flax, or hemp seeds.
  • Supplement with vitamin B12 if you follow an exclusively plant-based diet.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to keep your brain healthy:


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Diet and Alzheimer's Disease Fact Sheet


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  2. Lathe R, Sapronova A, Kotelevtsev Y. Atherosclerosis and Alzheimer-diseases with a common cause? Inflammation, oxysterols, vasculature. BMC Geriatr. 2014;14:36. doi:10.1186/1471-2318-14-36
  3. Giem P, Beeson WL, Fraser GE. The incidence of dementia and intake of animal products: preliminary findings from the Adventist Health Study. Neuroepidemiology. 1993;12(1):28-36. doi:10.1159/000110296
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  7. Postiglione A, Milan G, Ruocco A, Gallotta G, Guiotto G, Di Minno G. Plasma folate, vitamin B(12), and total homocysteine and homozygosity for the C677T mutation of the 5,10-methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase gene in patients with Alzheimer's dementia. A case-control study. Gerontology. 2001;47(6):324-329. doi:10.1159/000052822
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  10. Morris MC, Evans DA, Tangney CC, et al. Relation of the tocopherol forms to incident Alzheimer disease and to cognitive change. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(2):508-514.
  11. Browne D, McGuinness B, Woodside JV, McKay GJ. Vitamin E and Alzheimer's disease: what do we know so far?. Clin Interv Aging. 2019;14:1303-1317. doi:10.2147/CIA.S186760
  12. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin D. Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Latest updates September 18, 2023. Accessed May 9, 2024.
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