What we choose to eat directly affects our feelings of well-being and vitality. Our food choices greatly impact both our physical and mental health and this is true for all of us, despite of our age or current health. Healthy eating is not about staying super thin or depriving yourself of the foods you love; it is about eating foods that bring you health, give you more energy, stabilize your mood and make you feel great.
Your brain is one of the most metabolically active parts of your body and a steady stream of nutrients is needed to fuel your brain. Study after study has found a strong relationship between what we eat and how well we can perform important thinking and memory tasks. Certain nutrients will positively affect your brain, specifically in areas of your brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Eating the right foods for your brain not only allows it to function properly but will also reduce the risk for cognitive decline.
Healthy Foods to Feed Your Brain
Avocados are an amazing superfood with a rich flavor and powerful wide-ranging health benefits. Avocados are rich in folate, potassium, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Avocados contain more folate per ounce than any other fruit, with 90 micrograms per cup. Avocados are excellent in promoting brain health. They lower blood pressure which is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities. They contain monounsaturated fat which contributes to healthy blood flow to the brain.
When it comes to brain health, there really is nothing quite like blueberries. Blueberries have been called “brain berries” for a reason. Researchers have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and help reduce the effects of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Diets rich in blueberries have also been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills.
Blueberries are high in anthocyanins which help prevent the breakdown of brain cells. Studies have found that people who eat at least one cup of blueberries per week experience less mental decline compared to those who rarely eat them. In addition to anthocyanin, blueberries contain selenium, vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E, zinc, sodium, potassium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. These power-packed berries can help prevent degeneration and death of neurons and brain-cells and restore health of the central nervous system. Blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related memory impairments like dementia and even Alzheimer’s. Blueberries have even been shown to improve learning capacity.
Eggs are rich in choline which is a building block for acetylcholine, a crucial neurotransmitter that is responsible for proper mental functioning. In addition, the cholesterol in eggs has also been found to be beneficial to brain health. Cholesterol supports the membranes of neurons, helping them to keep their shape, and serves as a building block for hormones that influence brain function.
Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are very beneficial for brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids protect the brain and support its development and functioning. In addition, fish is a good source of high quality protein which is important for making the neurotransmitters that improve mental performance. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid plaques which have been associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. Omega 3 fatty acids also boost the production of the protein Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which is responsible for boosting memory, mood and alertness.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts such as walnuts, pecans and almonds are excellent in promoting brain health. There might be a good reason why walnuts look like miniature brains; they are the ultimate brain food. Studies have found that eating nuts such can result in improved cognitive function. The human brain needs high-quality fats like Omega-3’s to function properly by keeping the brain fluid and flexible. Nuts such as walnuts are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.
Seeds, such as sesame and sunflower seeds are high in zinc and vitamin E, both important for brain health. Zinc is an important mineral for learning, memory, and brain development. A deficiency in zinc has been linked to cognitive decline. Zinc is also part of the brain’s defense system because it promotes immune health and drives enzymes that keep a healthy balance of trace metals in the brain. Just one ounce of roasted sunflower seeds contains 30% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin E.
It’s never too late to start reaping the benefits of a brain-healthy diet!