Clare Edwards

Which Foods Better Your Brain?

Clare Edwards, Community Education Supervisor, SourcePoint

Brain Foods

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

It is often difficult to know what you should and should not eat! A magazine warns to stay away from carbs, while the doctor on TV says to cut out fat. So, what is the best diet to maintain a healthy weight and conserve your brain function as you age?

Generally, you should fill half your plate with green vegetables, one quarter with lean proteins, and the rest with whole grains. It also is recommended – for all ages – that you consume a variety of colors in your diet with assorted fruits and vegetables. Eating a balanced diet is important for ideal health and taking a multivitamin to cover any gaps in nutrition may be a good step for overall wellness. Consult your doctor if you are considering supplementing your diet.

For older adults, healthy eating is even more important for warding off or managing chronic diseases, as well as feeling and functioning at your best. One part of optimal well-being is cognition and memory. Studies show that certain foods can decrease risk of stroke, aid in memory performance, and increase brain processing speed. Research suggests that the following nutrients are especially vital for brain health:

  1. Vitamin E
    According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, foods rich in vitamin E have been shown to help prevent cognitive decline. Foods with high levels of vitamin E include spinach, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, almonds, and olive oil. Try cooking with olive or avocado oil rather than canola or vegetable oil.
  2. Herbs
    Certain herbs and spices have been associated with improvements in concentration and memory, such as rosemary, cinnamon, sage, and turmeric. Sprinkling cinnamon on oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast is a simple way to add it to your everyday diet!
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
    These compounds may slow age-related loss of brain function. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, trout, flaxseed, and walnuts. Results of a study from nutritional epidemiologists at Rush University Medical Center showed that older adults (aged 65-94) who consumed fish one or more times per week had significantly lowered risks of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who rarely or never ate fish. Preparing fish at home can be easy! Just place your favorite vegetables on a piece of foil, put a salmon filet on top with some spices and a slice of lemon, fold the foil over to cover the contents, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  1. Antioxidants
    An antioxidant is a molecule that decreases free radicals in your body. This is good for your health because free radicals can lead to various illnesses and chronic disease, as well as contribute to functional decline in the cells of the aging brain. Foods rich in antioxidants include blueberries, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, green tea, and tomatoes.
  2. Vitamin K
    Vitamin K, best known for its role in helping blood clot, has been associated with brain health. Due to its function in calcium regulation and formation of important fats found in brain cells, vitamin K may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and lead to better memory performance, according to a study in the Journal of American Dietetic Association. Increase your vitamin K intake by eating more broccoli, green, leafy vegetables, prunes, and cucumbers.

Now that’s some food for thought.

Brain Health Series