The importance of a healthy diet is well documented, and we’re sure you’ve heard time and time again that filling your plate with nutrient-dense foods protects your health. Healthy foods have been associated with better health for every system in the body, and you know that eating well protects your eyes, heart, bones, reduces your risk of conditions like diabetes and cancer, and much more. What you may not realize, though, is that all those nutrients are good for your brain as well. Do you know which foods to eat to keep your brain healthy, even improving your memory and focus? We’ve got a list of some great options to incorporate into your diet.
- Fatty Fish: This is probably the number one brain food on everyone’s list! Why? Because fatty fish like salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important to your brain because they make up about half of the fat in your brain. This is especially meaningful because about 60 percent of the brain is made of fat. Omega-3s are used to build brain and nerve cells, and they can slow age-related mental decline. In fact, research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids are linked to a reduction of beta-amyloid in the blood. Beta-amyloid is a protein that forms clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. On the other hand, people who don’t get enough omega-3s have been known to develop learning impairments and depression. If you don’t eat fish, your doctor may recommend an omega-3 supplement, or you try plant-based omega-3 sources like flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
- Nuts and Seeds: Speaking of walnuts, they’re a particularly good choice for improving memory. The particular type of omega-3 fatty acid they contain, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is especially good for improved cognition, lower blood pressure, and cleaner arteries. Other kinds of nuts and seeds are beneficial as well, with numerous studies linking them to a reduced risk of cognitive decline. It’s not just the fatty acids, either. Nuts have protein, antioxidants, and vitamin E as well, which all benefit your brain health. Seeds are a good choice too, particularly pumpkin seeds, which contain powerful antioxidants. By protecting your body and brain from free-radical damage, antioxidants help keep your mental function strong. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in other nutrients that are important for brain health, like magnesium, zinc, iron, and copper.
- Berries: The flavonoids that make berries brightly colored and appealing can also improve and protect memory. The antioxidants found in blueberries, in particular, fight oxidative stress and inflammation that can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases and brain aging. What’s more, some of those antioxidants accumulate in the brain, helping improve communication between its cells.
- Coffee and Tea: Caffeine and antioxidants both support brain health. In fact, recent research indicates that caffeine may be instrumental in securing new memories. Caffeine increases alertness, improves your mood, and sharpens your focus, and drinking three to four cups of coffee or tea each day may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Green tea is a particularly healthy choice because it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that affects your neurotransmitter, reducing anxiety and helping promote relaxation. It also has polyphenols and antioxidants, which protect against mental decline.
- Turmeric: Curcumin, found in turmeric, can cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can directly enter the brain and improve the health of brain cells. It’s thought to improve memory, alleviate depression, and help new brain cells grow.
- Green Leafies: When your mother told you to eat your spinach and broccoli, she was on to something. Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli contain vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. These are all important nutrients for improving memory and protecting against cognitive decline.
- Citrus Fruit: Oranges, in particular, are especially high in vitamin C. In fact, you can get almost your entire recommended daily allowance of vitamin C by eating an orange. Other foods that are great sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries. Vitamin C is important, because high levels of it in the blood are associated with improved focus, memory, attention, and decision-making speed. That’s because vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights the free radicals that can damage brain cells. It supports brain health as you age, helping to protect you from conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder.
- Eggs: Eggs contain vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and choline. All of these nutrients are important for regulating mood and promoting proper brain function, but many people don’t get enough choline and older people are often deficient in folate.
- Dark Chocolate: Chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or greater is packed with nutrients that boost your brain, including flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants. Flavonoids are thought to enhance memory and slow mental decline; eating chocolate can improve your mood.
At Parkwood Heights, we prioritize the health and happiness of our residents. That’s one of the reasons this is a great place to live your best life. A lovely community in which to spend your retirement, Parkwood Heights is located just minutes from Victor, Fairport, Farmington, and Canandaigua. Our picturesque, 122-acre senior living campus affords many opportunities to enjoy your time with friends and family while enjoying our scenic setting. Call (315) 986-9100 to learn more about all that we have to offer or check out our website and reach out if you have any questions.