We normally think of food as nutrition for our bodies, without giving much thought to our brains. The truth is that what you eat has a huge impact on your brain and how it functions. There are several categories of foods that are beneficial for brain health:
Antioxidants – they help fight the cellular damage from free radicals that form in our brains and bodies as a result of exposure to stress and damaging substances such as fried foods, chemicals and air pollution as well as normal processes in our bodies like metabolism. If left unchecked, these free radicals can cause chronic inflammation which is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Nitrates – High-nitrate foods are converted by your body to nitric oxide which relaxes the blood vessels and improves blood flow to your brain for better cognitive performance.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – vital for normal brain function and development as well as protecting it as you age. Your brain is 60% fat and Omega-3s are the good kind of fat that it needs.
Anti-amyloids – the build-up of amyloid plaque is one of the causes of memory issues and dementia. Foods that fight that build-up help to keep the brain clear and functioning better.
For improved brain health, the following foods should be included regularly in your diet:
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale and chard – dark leafy green as well as cruciferous vegetables are high in antioxidants and fiber.
- Olive oil – a powerful anti-inflammatory which has been shown to be as powerful as ibuprofen in a study published by NCBI. Also loaded with brain-healthy monounsaturated fats.
- Turmeric – its active ingredient curcumin is an effective anti-inflammatory that has been shown to be more effective than some drugs. It also offers anti-amyloid activities.
- Berries, especially blueberries, contain anthocyanins and flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants.
- Dark chocolate – rich in flavanols, which are in the flavonoid antioxidant family. Aim for a minimum of 70% cacao content in your chocolate and eat 1 – 2 oz/day.
- Walnuts – contain the highest level of Omega-3 and antioxidants than any other nut. An excellent brain food that’s even shaped like a brain!
- Beets – a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that is also rich in nitrates.
- Eggs – the yolk is one of the best sources of choline which is an important nutrient for brain health.
- Salmon – another important source of Omega-3 fatty acid.
- Rosemary – contains active ingredients that function as antioxidants for the brain.
In addition to eating the right foods for brain health, it’s important to avoid processed foods and those with added sugar, as well as exercising regularly.