You are what you eat. Gorge on a diet of junk food and you’ll feel sluggish. Switch to a healthy diet and you’ll feel sharper and have more energy. Over the long term, eating a healthy diet may even reduce your risk of dementia.
A team of researchers found that older adults who consumed the most nutritious food lowered their risk of cognitive decline by nearly 25%, compared to those with the least healthy diets. They also found that a diet based on certain foods may reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50%.
To learn more about foods that can boost your brain health and the best nutrients for memory, read on.
Smart Foods for Brain Health
Eating these foods are key to better brain health.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and Swiss chard are packed with fiber, vitamin K, folate, potassium, flavonoids and carotenoids. They decrease inflammation, provide fiber with little or no sugar, and are good for your brain, not to mention your arteries, bones and waistline.
2. Other Vegetables
Rainbow-colored vegetables will slow cellular aging (including brain cells), and improve blood pressure and blood flow. Beets in particular are rich in nitrates and known for improving blood pressure and blood flow. Other vegetables you should include in your diet are carrots, fennel, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes and butternut squash.
Fatty, cold-water fish are excellent sources of omega-3 unsaturated fats, one of the best nutrients for memory. Omega-3 fatty acids thin the blood, reducing the risk of blocked blood vessels and strokes. Wild salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, mussels, oysters, Dover sole, flounder and trout are all good sources of omega-3s.
4. Olive Oil
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Inflammation is a risk factor for decreased cognitive function and memory loss. Avocado oil is another healthy oil growing in popularity.
Your brain is 60% fat. It needs good fat to nourish it, and nuts are high in healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fats. Nuts are also packed with vitamin E, known for its brain-protective qualities. The best nuts for your brain include almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and macadamias.
6. Berries and Cherries
These fruits are high in flavonoids and fiber. Flavonoids improve blood flow and have anti-inflammatory properties. Blueberries in particular have been shown to improve cognition. In a 20-year study of over 16,000 older adults, those who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rates of cognitive decline. Fresh or frozen, berries and cherries are a smart pick for your brain.
7. Dark Chocolate
Eating chocolate with at least 70% cacao may encourage blood flow to the parts of your brain involved in memory and learning. Using brain imaging methods, researchers found that dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning. So before you do the crossword, treat yourself to chocolate.
8. Coffee and Green Tea
Everyone knows that caffeine in coffee helps you feel more alert and able to concentrate. But it’s also associated with lower rates of cognitive decline and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Green tea may be even better for your brain, helping to improve mental function without the jitteriness some people experience with caffeine.
9. Red Wine
Moderate consumption of red wine may lower the risk of dementia. It’s associated with decreased plaque formation, reduced inflammation and better blood sugar control. If you enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, great. If you’d rather not, red grapes, cherries and blueberries are a tasty option.
The B vitamins in beans help make the neurotransmitters that pass signals between neurons. Beans are also loaded with other essential vitamins and minerals, including folates, magnesium and potassium. In addition, beans fight destructive oxidation in cells, which can lead to accelerated aging, including memory loss. Beans (kidney, pinto, black, white), chickpeas, green peas, lentils and hummus are good ways to get more legumes on your plate.
Nourish Mind, Body and Spirit at Timber Ridge
With a wide variety of wellness programs, there’s always something to keep residents of our senior independent living community healthy and engaged. And with a full range of health services, including assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and memory care, residents can make the most of each day, knowing care is available on campus, if ever needed.