Most people know that eating a well-balanced diet is important to maintain overall health and fitness. Interestingly, what you eat can also affect your memory and cognitive function. Healthy eating can not only reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, but it can also aid in maintaining and even improving your memory, it can protect your brain cells and also lower your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. All the more reason to mindfully enjoy a healthy diet as you age.
The Best Foods for Brain Health
Evaluating your current diet will help you decide where some healthy additions (or deletions) might be worthwhile. Maybe you regularly enjoy a sweet treat after dinner, or possibly you skip breakfast or lunch, opting for a doughnut or a bag of chips while on the go. Swapping in a healthy alternative is just one of the ways to implement a more brain-healthy diet.
Some of the best foods for brain health include:
- Green, leafy vegetables: Dark green veggies like kale and spinach are considered superfoods that can help protect your brain from damaging free radicals. They are also good sources of folate, which may help lower levels of an amino acid called homocysteine; high levels of homocysteine can possibly trigger breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
- Food high in omega-3s: Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including a key omega-3, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is reported to be important for the normal function of neurons in the brain. In fact, a study shows that those who get 900 mg of DHA daily made as few mistakes on a memory test as someone seven years younger! Other foods high in omega-3s include nuts, seeds, avocado and eggs. You can also consider taking a supplement of DHA to get more of it in your diet.
- Vitamin E-packed foods: Researchers have noted that foods high in vitamin E are often associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This may be due to the fact that vitamin E can help trap free radicals that cause brain cell damage. You can find vitamin E in foods like sunflower seeds, avocados, peanut butter, almonds and red peppers, and as above, a supplement is an additional option.
- Berries: Many studies show that berries can help reduce the effects of age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s, due to the fact that they can protect the brain from oxidative stress. Choose berries high in antioxidants like blueberries, strawberries and acai berries.
- Coffee and tea: If you love your morning coffee, the great news is that coffee can help fight off oxidative stress and reduce your risk for neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, studies show that those consuming 3 cups per day are 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. Prefer tea? Tea (black, green, oolong, etc.) is also great for your brain, as it contains an amino acid called theanine that can help activate the part of your brain that is connected to your attention span.
How to Eat a Brain Healthy Diet
The key to incorporating a more brain healthy diet is making more mindful decisions about what you put in your body. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats, processed foods, simple sugars, and any grain that isn’t whole grain. Also, try to include fresh fruits and vegetables into your meals and your snacks. Planning your meals and snacks for the week ahead of time and having healthy choices on hand will help you avoid reaching for that convenient, sugary or processed snack instead of a healthier option. The results of your effort may include better brain health and they’ll certainly be delicious.
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