A diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, nuts and healthy fats is important for cognitive health and high quality of life. Although all of these are important for a healthy mind, some foods are ‘superfoods’ and are especially nutritious for your brain. In honor of World Alzheimer’s Day, let’s focus on these brain boosters, which include:
Blueberries -The antioxidants in blueberries are helpful in a number of ways: they reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain and body, improves communication between neurons, and increases brain plasticity. This translates to evidence that blueberries may help improve or delay short term memory loss, protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals (thanks to a high amount of powerful antioxidants!), which in turn may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Oily Fish- Fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring is a rich source of omega-3s, a major building block of the brain. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body, which means they must be obtained through our diet. About 60% of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind. Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memoryOmega-3s play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against decline.
Dark Chocolate (!) – Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are strong antioxidants that can improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases. The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory and researchers say these compounds may enhance memory. In addition, dark chocolate is a proven mood-booster! Make sure the chocolate is at least 72% cocoa to enjoy its health benefits.
Turmeric – This golden colored spice has generated a lot of buzz lately, and for good reason. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there. Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant and is one of the strongest naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agents ever identified. Other benefits include that it helps improve the brain’s oxygen intake, increases memory and cognitive function, and also benefits the immune system. In research settings, it has reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Broccoli – Broccoli is very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the recommended daily amount in a 1-cup serving. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells. Broccoli also contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage.
Coffee – Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. It improves alertness, mood, and concentration. Studies have linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of cognitive decline, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.