Four Foods for a Healthy Brain
While there’s no food that can single handedly prevent dementia or supercharge brain function, there are certain foods we can incorporate into our diets that have been shown to improve brain health and help protect our gray matter from cognitive decline.
Interestingly, the foods that have been proven to support brain health are the same ones that help ensure a healthy heart and blood vessels.¹ That comes as no surprise to us at iheart, because we know that a healthy aorta and good internal mobility not only help prevent cardiovascular disease, but are key in maintaining a healthy brain.
The link between internal mobility and brain health
Internal mobility – the youthfulness and flexibility of core internal structures like the aorta, spine, and diaphragm – is critically important to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. Without it, the brain doesn’t receive as much oxygen or nutrients. This will eventually result in cell death in the brain, which left unchecked can lead to devastating cognitive issues like dementia.
The good news is, improving internal mobility is possible – even in as little as three weeks. And a fantastic way to start improving it is through a healthy, well-rounded diet.
Whether you’re a healthcare practitioner looking to help patients with their diet or simply someone who wants to make sure their brain stays as youthful as possible, everyone can benefit from knowing which foods are vital to supporting the health of their brain.
Here are our top four recommendations for brain-boosting foods.
Green leafy vegetables
Besides keeping our guts and hearts healthy, green leafy vegetables are an essential part of our brain’s overall health and functioning. Veggies like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are full of brain-boosting nutrients like Vitamin K, Lutein, Folate, and Beta Carotene.
If you want to slow cognitive decline, adding these nutrient-dense foods to your diet is a must. There are plenty of ways to incorporate them into recipes, including salads, stir fries, smoothies, and wraps. Find a way that’s most appealing to you, and try to eat some form of them every day.
Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good unsaturated fats, are abundant in fatty fish. They have been associated with decreased blood levels of beta-amyloid, the protein that collects in harmful clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.
Fish that are low in mercury, like salmon, cod, canned light tuna, and pollack, should be consumed at least twice a week for maximum health benefits. Ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement if you don't like fish, or opt for terrestrial omega-3 sources like flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
Studies show that flavonoids – the natural plant pigments that give berries their vivid colors – also aid in memory improvement. According to research from Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard, women who eat two or more portions of strawberries and blueberries each week can postpone memory loss by up to 2.5 years.¹
Adding more berries into your diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Use them as a topping for salads, parfaits, cereal, or eat them fresh by the handful. Your brain will thank you!
Not only are nuts a great source of protein and good fats, but one variety in particular may help with memory. Eating an increased quantity of walnuts was associated with higher cognition test scores, according to a 2015 study by UCLA. That’s because alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, is abundant in walnuts (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acid-rich diets have been associated with lowered blood pressure and cleaner arteries, benefitting both the heart and the brain.
Walnuts are an easy brain-supporting food to incorporate into your diet. Great for snacking or chopping up and adding to a variety of dishes, you’ll want to incorporate a small handful of walnuts into your diet every day to receive the greatest benefits.