After exploring several avenues in my last article to keep our brains functioning well for a long time to come, I wanted to delve a little deeper into what foods are especially beneficial for our gray cells for the long haul. Whether you're a foodie who loves cooking up fresh ingredients for a shared family meal, or a snack lover who needs a brain boost on-the-go, here are 10 foods to give you inspiration!
10 Foods to benefit your brain health:
1. Blueberries: One of the most effective foods known to help improve brain health is the humble blueberry. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, as well as anti-inflammatory flavonoids. These antioxidants protect your brain from oxidative stress which can lead to aging and dementia. Try incorporating fresh blueberries in your morning smoothie or snack on them in between meals. Other berries like strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are also packed with antioxidants and flavonoids with the same anti-inflammatory effect. So berry away!
If you want to learn more, check out this link: 75 blueberries a day.
2. Fish: One of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as
salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines. Omega-3s are essential for brain health and have been shown to aid in the prevention of memory loss and improve mood. About 60% of your brain is made of fat, half of which is comprised of omega-3s. Omega-3s may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. And just imagine the possibilities for meals from the sea!
If you want to learn more, click this link: Consuming fish may protect brain health.
3. Nuts: Nuts are an abundant source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. They are also rich in vitamin E, which is known to protect your brain cells from oxidative stress and cognitive decline. Nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts are all great. Try adding them to salads or just munching on them as a snack throughout the day. Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids – double win!
If you want to lean more, check out this link: 7 nuts and seeds that are healthy brain fuel.
4. Broccoli and broccolini: A cruciferous vegetable, it is rich in vitamin K, choline, and flavonoids which also boost cognitive function. Additionally, broccoli is rich in glucosinolates, which combats inflammation and stress. Vitamin K is essential for forming sphingolipids, an essential building block of your brain cells. A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory and cognitive status. A simple way of adding more broccoli or its relatives into your diet? Try roasting them with a drizzle of olive oil or cooking them in a wok. Broccolini, my personal go-to cruciferous, does very well in a wok with olive oil, pepper, and a splash of garlic, but add other spices as your palate craves!
Want to know more? Click here: Cruciferous vegetables.
5. Avocado: There is no doubt that this fruit is a powerhouse of good fat, fiber, and
micronutrients. Avocado is abundant in healthy monounsaturated fats which are involved in maintaining healthy brain cell membranes. Eating avocados could also help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Try with pepper, smoked paprika, and lime juice as a snack or as a side to your meal.
Check out these link for more info: Avocado and brain function.
And this National health and nutrition survey: US Older Adults That Consume Avocado or Guacamole Have Better Cognition Than Non-consumers: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011–2014.
6. Eggs: One of the simplest foods on this list, eggs are packed with nutrients. Whole eggs are a great source of choline, again essential for cognitive and memory function. They're also jam-packed with vitamins B6 and B12, both of which help to reduce inflammation and support healthy brain function. A lack of the essential Vitamin B12 can also lead to dementia-like symptoms and damaged nerves in your hands and feet, a condition also known as neuropathy (= diseased nerves). May we dream of a breakfast omelet wafting through the house in the morning? Or a simple German style boiled egg?
Check out more on eggs: Egg intake moderates memory decline in healthy older adults (J Nutritional Science).
7. Green tea: This delicious beverage has a considerable number of antioxidants. It contains L-theanine which improves mood and cognitive performance. Drinking green tea regularly can protect against cognitive decline, memory loss, and Alzheimer's disease. As an exercise in mindfulness to start my day, I enjoy a tea prep ritual with a gorgeous Japanese cast iron tea pot. Just looking at the teapot alone is a treat!
Further reading: 7 unexpected health benefits of green tea.
8. Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, C, and E, but are also an excellent source of potassium. Sweet potatoes are versatile root vegetables that can easily be incorporated into your diet. Roasting them or using them in a stew is a great way to enjoy this healthy dish. But there is such a rich variety in preparing them, it doesn’t look like I will get bored with them any time soon!
Here is more: What's to know about sweet potatoes?
9. Dark chocolate: Researchers have found that consuming cocoa or dark chocolate improves brain function and blood flow to the brain due to the flavonoids present in them. The high levels of antioxidants in cocoa can also reduce inflammation and cognitive decline associated with aging. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which can improve mental alertness and mood. Woohoo! Excellent news for all of us chocolate lovers!
Here is what Harvard Medical School has to say: Your brain on chocolate.
10. Turmeric: Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is also a potent antioxidant. It also eases depression by boosting serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters (signaling proteins) important in regulating mood. Curcumin also boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, and research is ongoing.
Here is more on turmeric: Turmeric compound could boost memory and mood.
Eating a healthful diet is essential for overall health. From blueberries to broccoli and dark chocolate to salmon, there are plenty of delicious foods you can include in your diet to support your precious brain. And just imagine the heart- and gut-warming meals and snacks you can create with these wonderful ingredients! Combine with foods that keep your joints well oiled (read my article here), and you are well on your way to a fabulous library of nature’s best.
Once our “Cadwell Kitchen” opens, we will give you a variety of delicious recipes and tips on how to prepare easy but power-packed meals with all these yummy ingredients, so stay tuned.
XOXO from Katharina 😊