You probably include certain food in your diet to help maintain a healthy weight, prevent disease or promote lean body mass, but did you know that what you eat affects your brain health as well? There are foods that lift your mood, prevent dementia and keep your brain sharp. Don’t wait until you start to lose it to begin worrying about how your diet affects your brain. No matter how old you are today, it is time to start incorporating the best foods for brain health into your diet now.
The Best Foods for Brain Health
You may have noticed when you are in a bad mood that eating chocolate makes you feel better, and that brain benefit is not just due to the taste. Chocolate gives you a rush of dopamine and stimulates endorphin production. These brain chemicals produce feelings of pleasure that you also get from exercise or sex. Chocolate also contains serotonin, with acts as an anti-depressant. Chocolate, specifically dark chocolate with a 70% higher cocoa content, can also ward of dementia. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which can help slow down the effects of dementia. An Italian study found that people with mild dementia who drank cocoa with high amounts of flavonoids performed better than people with mild dementia who drank cocoa with low amounts of flavonoids.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Keep eating those greens! Studies have demonstrated that people in their 60s who eat more spinach and other leafy green vegetables over time score higher on memory, verbal and other tests than people in the same age group who do not eat green leafy vegetables.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
A small Finnish study that was published in Neurology found that consuming foods high in vitamin B12 may reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Vitamin B12 is found in animal food sources, such as sardines and wild-caught salmon (both are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids), calf liver, grass-fed beef (the high iron content helps bring oxygen to the brain), lamb and eggs. The B vitamins have been found to lower levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
Omega 3 Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids promote brain health by improving communication among brain cells and mental focus. They also lift your moods and help fight crankiness. More Omega-3 foods besides sardines and salmon (mentioned previously) include tuna, mackerel, flaxseed (a mood lifter as well) and walnuts, making all of these among the best foods for brain health.
You should aim to eat one cup of berries every day, especially if you are a man concerned about developing Parkinson’s disease. Berries contain flavonoids called anthocyanins. A Harvard study reported that anthocyanins are especially beneficial in preventing Parkinson’s disease in men. Men in the study who ate the most anthocyanins were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s than the men who ate the least about of this flavonoid. All berries are good for everyone, but blueberries and acai berries have the highest levels of antioxidants and are especially good for brain health for both men and women. One of the antioxidants found in berries is polyphenol. Polyphenol stops inflammation and helps your brain cells work better.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea is good for the brain, especially improving working memory, which is important for reasoning and guiding in decision making and behavior. Green tea also helps block formation of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Nuts and Seeds
Pumpkins seeds are high essential fatty acids and zinc, which is important for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E, which may help in preventing cognitive decline. Walnuts are high in DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, whereas almonds and hazelnuts provide vitamin E—associated with less age-related cognitive decline. Sunflower seeds are also high in vitamin E.
It’s a no-brainer adding the best food for brain health into your diet. These natural, whole foods tout many other health benefits as well. Many improve cardiovascular health, which in turn helps brain health. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes oily fish, nuts, seeds, greens and even some chocolate occasionally, you will be on the path to keeping your brain in shape and your spirits up.