When you think about making healthy food choices, what are the reasons? To have more energy? To look better in your clothes? To lose weight? Is brain health one of the reasons?
Perhaps your memory works well and you haven’t experienced any problems with your cognitive functions. Sometimes we take our brain for granted and don’t really think about nurturing it until noticeable problems arise. Cognitive decline can start as early as age 45, and it’s never too early or too late to start feeding your body and your brain foods they need to work optimally.
Adding the following seven foods to your diet can help nourish your brain.
Not only are blueberries considered to be the highest antioxidant fruit, but studies show they can help improve cognitive function. Five hours after eating a large helping of blueberries in the morning, participants’ performance at mental tasks was better than those who did not. Those who didn’t have the blueberries did worse by 15 to 20 percent. Another study spanning six years of 16,010 elderly people showed that eating blueberries and strawberries delayed cognitive aging by up to two and a half years.
Walnuts not only look like a brain, but research shows that they can help your brain function as well. A study out of The University of California’s David Geffin School of Medicine found that eating a handful or less of walnuts every day can improve concentration, memory, and the speed your brain processes information. Thousands of people in the study aged 20 and up performed better on six cognitive tests. Another benefit found in studies is that those who eat walnuts lost an average of 1.4 pounds more weight than those who don’t. Along with those benefits, vitamin E-rich walnuts are a source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Incorporating leafy greens into your diet can help slow down mental deterioration, according to a study. The study followed 950 older adults’ diets for five years and found that those who ate greens such as mustard greens, spinach, and kale once or twice daily had slower mental deterioration than those who didn’t eat any leafy greens. The participants in the study were an average of 81 years old. There are a wide variety of greens to choose from, including Swiss chard, romaine lettuce, and collard greens.
Increased blood flow to the brain is a good thing, and Wake Forest University scientists found that the nitrates in beets can do just that. Increased blood flow helps with mental performance, and the participants in the study were given MRIs which showed increased blood flow to the frontal lobes. This is the area that is often linked with degeneration.
Alaskan wild-caught salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids that can protect against Parkinson’s disease. A study shows that DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid, is what provides the protective effect. Try to eat salmon at least twice a week.
Do you feel guilty about your love of chocolate? Chocolate lovers can be happy knowing that dark chocolate is good for you. A study showed that blood flow to the brains of volunteers improved after consuming high-flavonol cocoa for five days. Another study showed that cocoa can be beneficial for older adults who have cognitive impairment. Flavonols in dark chocolate have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. To get these benefits, skip white and milk chocolate and look for dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.
Eggs are a great source of choline, which has been shown in a study to be associated with a better memory. Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, and studies show that they don’t raise your cholesterol. If you only eat eggs whites, switch to whole organic, free-range eggs.
These are just seven of the many foods that benefit your brain. If they’re not a regular part of your diet, you can easily incorporate them. Add walnuts and blueberries to your oatmeal or make an omelette for breakfast, make a beet salad with leafy greens for lunch, and bake salmon with lemon and dill for dinner. And when you want a hint of sweetness, have a square or two of dark chocolate.
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