Eating Right for Better Brain HealthNutrition | October 23, 2015
Most seniors probably already know that eating a well-balanced diet is important for their overall health and fitness. However, did you know that 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 help improve your memory, protect your brain cells and lower your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The Best Foods for Brain Health
There’s no time like the present to take a look at your current diet and evaluate where some changes could be made. Maybe you find that you have a sweet tooth and reach for a sugary treat every evening after dinner. Or, maybe it’s just simply easier to reach for a bag of greasy potato chips for a snack rather than choose a healthier option. What are some easy choices you can make that will be part of a 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 good sources of folic acid, which may help lower levels of an amino acid called homocysteine in the blood; high levels of homocysteine can possibly trigger the breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.
- Food high in omega-3s: Fish like salmon, tuna, pollock and cod are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including the key omega-3, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA has been reported to be important for the normal functioning of neurons in the brain. In fact, a study has shown that those who get 900 mg of DHA daily made as few mistakes on a memory test as someone seven years younger! You can also consider taking a supplement of DHA to get more of it in your diet. Other foods high in omega-3s are avocados, eggs and olive oil.
- 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 those free radicals that cause damage to brain cells. You can find vitamin E in foods like walnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, peanut butter, almonds and hazelnuts.
- Berries: Many new studies have shown 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: Love your morning cup of coffee? Enjoy it! Coffee can also help fight off oxidative stress and reduce your risk for neurodegenerative diseases. Plus, studies have shown that those who consume 3 cups per day were 65% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. Prefer tea instead? 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 starting a brain healthy diet is to make smarter decisions about what’s going in your body. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats, processed foods, sugars, and any grain that isn’t whole grain. A general rule of thumb is that if your food can go bad, it’s good for you, while if what’s in your kitchen can last many, many years, it’s bad for you. Plan your meals and snacks for the week ahead of time so you don’t find yourself reaching for that convenient, sugary snack instead of a healthier option.
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