10 Best Brain Foods
Use These Foods to Boost Your Ability to Think, Process, and Learn
Eating healthy foods has been shown to boost your learning ability, attention span and memory, according to author Cynthia Green, PhD. It is also believed to be beneficial in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Green is the founder of the Memory Enhancement Program at New York City’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She states that the proper diet is part of preventing inflammation of the brain and maintaining healthy brain cells as well as preventing dementia-type disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
I have compiled the following list of the 10 best foods for maintaining a healthy brain throughout your life.
1. Fatty Fish
A healthy brain requires omega-3 fatty acids that your body cannot manufacture. Certain fish contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that accounts for approximately 40% of all fatty acids found in the membranes of brain cells.
Certain fish contain high levels of DHA in a form that is easily utilized by your system. The best fish to choose are salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, mackerel, kippers, herring, trout and pilchards.
Experts recommend 4 to 6 ounces of fatty fish 2 or 3 times per week but caution that you should limit your intake of albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces total per week to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury.
Diets rich in blueberries have been shown to improve both the motor skills and learning ability of aging rats. Research has demonstrated a link between eating blueberries and protecting the brain from the effects of oxidative stress, and it is believed that blueberries also reduce the effects of age-related dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Choose fresh, freeze-dried or frozen blueberries, but canned ones may have lost much of their beneficial properties. Recommendations call for adding a minimum of 1 cup of blueberries to your diet each day.
Your brain requires a steady supply of glucose to function properly. What you eat affects your blood glucose levels. Beans are an excellent source of glucose and are easy to incorporate into your diet.
The best types are black beans and lentils, but other beans, such as navy beans, pintos and lima beans, are also beneficial.
4. Cruciferous and Leafy Green Vegetables
Cruciferous and leafy green vegetables are high in carotenoids and vitamin C, which are beneficial for protecting brain health. The best choices are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, bok choy and kale.
Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K, which has been proven to improve cognitive function. The recommendation is to include one or more of these vegetables every day in your meal plan.
A popular spice that is frequently used in Thai and Indian cooking, curry can also be added to meat marinades, spaghetti sauce or salad dressings.
Curry contains curcumin, which has been demonstrated to clear away amyloid plaques in the brain, proteins that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Nuts are a good source of vitamin E, and studies have shown that people with higher levels of this vitamin show less decline in cognitive function as they age. Good sources include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, peanuts and filberts. You should include 1 to 2 ounces of nuts in your diet each day.
7. Whole Gains
Whole grains benefit brain function in two ways. First, they have been shown to benefit heart health, and healthy circulation is part of good brain function.
Second, whole grains work to stabilize blood sugar levels, providing a steady supply of the fuel that the brain needs to function: glucose. Try to include 2 to 3 slices of whole-grain bread and 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal each day.
8. Dark Chocolate
Avocados benefit brain health in a variety of ways. They contain monosaturated fat, which has been shown to enhance a healthy blood flow, essential for brain health. They reduce blood pressure, and high blood pressure increases the risk of cognitive decline. Avocados are high in vitamin E, which is believed to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 67% when derived from food rather than supplements.
10. Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranates are rich in antioxidants that give the brain protection against damages caused by free radicals. Pomegranate juice is the most convenient form, but you could receive the same benefits from eating the fruit.
Pomegranate juice in its natural state is quite tart, so most juices contain added sugar. Therefore, you probably want to hold your intake to about 2 ounces of pomegranate juice per day, which you can dilute with seltzer or spring water if you want.
Okay this one isn’t technically a food, but its benefit top the brain is just too important not mention briefly. Research suggests that regular exercise is as important, if not more so, as what you eat when it comes to memory-saving lifestyle changes.
Experts all stress that getting regular exercise is also an important part of the equation when it comes to staving off many diseases, including Alzheimer’s.