6 Foods Your Brain Loves
A recent article published by NBC News offered a variety of options that will help you nourish your brain and heart so they work the best they can for you.
Much of the research on brain nutrition investigates the frequent lapses in memory that may accompany aging – current thinking is that certain food choices increase your chances of more years of good brain function.
Two diets are often mentioned as examples of healthy eating for the mind and heart – the “Mediterranean Diet” and the “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet.” Each is designed to help you improve your thinking, including learning, problem-solving, retention of detail, and the completion of complex tasks. They also enhance your circulatory and coronary function, so they support your Brain-Heart Connection.
The Mediterranean Diet concentrates on plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, and includes whole grains and legumes. The DASH diet, originally intended as a heart-friendly way of eating, turns out to be just as beneficial for the brain, as it focuses on vegetables, whole grains and lower-fat dairy products. When you extract the essence of these two eating styles, you get today’s best thinking on giving your body its most favorable nutrition, referred to as the MIND diet.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, a fancy way to say eating this way will help your brain to last longer. This reduces the likelihood of dementia and extends memory as well as other cognitive functions. In fact, studies show that following this diet loosely decreases your chance of Alzheimer’s by 35%, and following it closely can improve your brain longevity by up to 53%. Another way of reporting this is that those who adhered to the guidelines added seven years to their brain health, very significant.
Another study examined seniors between age 60 and 77, who may suffer reduced brain function, and found that after two years of adopting lifestyle habits like the MIND Diet, as well as physical exercise, brain stimulation and monitoring their blood chemistries, a 25% improvement in mental capacity was observed compared to those who did not follow these simple lifestyle habits. Executive tasks improved up to 83% in the healthy lifestyle group, and the biggest improvements were in processing time, how long it takes to do mental functions, where the healthy lifestyle group was as much as 150% faster, affecting decision-making, note-taking and reading.
Here are some of the high points of the MIND diet.
- Dark, leafy greens are rich in brain-protecting nutrients like folate, lutein, and phylloquinone. Research says that about one serving each day can make your brain’s age up to eleven years younger! It can be as simple as having a fresh salad each day, or throwing some kale into a smoothie, or adding sautéed greens as a side dish to any dinner. And don’t forget the other veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and carrots.
- Nuts contain healthy fats which decrease brain inflammation. One study found that five servings a week can add two years of well function to your brain.
- Beans and Legumes help you preserve your thinking skills. As little as three servings a week was shown to reduce cognitive decline.
- Berries contain anti-oxidants which maintain brain function – two servings a week can lower your risk of mental impairment with age.
- Seafood, like salmon and sardines, provides anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. Even one or two servings each week gives you lots of healthy fat.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Avocado Oil contain healthy fats which regulate your blood pressure, your blood sugar and your blood flow, which serves to optimize your brain health.
Bonus #1: Dark Chocolate gives you anti-oxidants known as flavonoids, which enhance blood flow and contribute to better memory. It also increases neuroplasticity, a fancy word that means your brain learns, functions and heals itself better.
Bonus #2: Wine in moderation, about a glass a day, reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer, slows aging, and boosts neurological and immune function.
Obviously, there are some foods your brain doesn’t love, like sweets, processed foods, red meat, fried food and excessive cheese or butter. The sugar and saturated fats in these foods may lead to brain deterioration, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.
So, choose your foods carefully, with lots of good brain food – you’ll live longer, healthier and happier.