What would you do to strengthen and protect your brain in old age? For most of us, cognitive health is our number one priority, so if there was ever an opportunity to bolster our mental abilities and protect against decline, it wouldn’t be a question of “Why do I need this?” but rather “How do I begin?”
Everyone knows physical exercise and regular intellectual activity help keep the brain fit. But another factor often overlooked is just as important: your diet. Scientists and nutritionists have teamed up in recent years to study the effects of food consumption on memory function and the prevention of age-related memory decline and Alzheimer’s. With the latest information, we have created a comprehensive guide to brain-empowering foods, so you can skip the bad stuff and grab the good stuff on your next trip to the grocery store.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help protect tissues in the brain from inflammation and oxidation damage (hence “anti-” oxidant). Foods with high Vitamin C content include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, green and red peppers, kale, kiwi, mango, oranges, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Vitamin E has shown to have protective abilities over brain cell membranes, and should be a staple in your diet if you want prolonged cognitive health. Vitamin E can be found in almonds, canola oil, grape seed oil, hazelnuts, papaya, safflower oil, sunflower seeds, wheat germ oil, arugula, beet greens, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, rapini, spinach and Swiss chard.
Vitamin B12 is essential for building blood cells and maintaining healthy nerve cells in the body, which makes it extremely unfortunate that it is deficient in about 15% of Americans. The cure? Eat more dairy products, clams, beef liver, fish, poultry and meat. This doesn’t make it easy for vegans to meet their recommended daily amount of the vitamin, so B12-fortified soy-milk and nutrition bars are recommended alternatives.
Flavonoids are compounds found largely in cocoa beans that enhance brain blood flow and improve cognitive health. But don’t unwrap that Hershey’s bar just yet. The weight gain induced by increased chocolate consumption can have the opposite effect you are looking for. To find flavonoids in cocoa, look for dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or greater, and only eat about a Hershey’s kiss worth no more than three times a week. Flavonoids can also be found in parsley, onions, blueberries, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, bananas, citrus fruits and red wine.
THINGS TO AVOID: Saturated Fats and Refined Sugars. Alzheimer’s disease has been associated with high intake of saturated fats and refined sugars, and should be highly limited from your diet or ousted completely. High levels of saturated fat are found, unsurprisingly, in animal fat products such as cream, cheese, butter, whole milk dairy products, and fatty meats. Refined sugars are hidden in sweets, cereal, processed foods, and drinks.
The key with all of this information is to put it in perspective. Instead of focusing on how much you will miss your daily Diet Coke, shift your attitude towards one of empowerment. If maintaining cognitive health is a high priority for you, you can take the reigns and steer yourself towards a future full of learning. View each meal as a fueling station – an opportunity to feed your mind the nutrients it needs to stay alert, alive and highly functioning. When your future self is successfully finishing that expert crossword puzzle, they will thank you dearly. So, bon appétit, and long live your healthy brain!
How do you implement healthy brain foods into your diet? Are there any you like that were not mentioned above? Share them with the community to promote healthy living!