Have you ever heard the term “brain foods?” Certain foods can help promote brain health, boost memory, and are great for overall brain function. Ensuring your brain has all the nutrients and energy it needs to function at optimal levels will help boost your mind health and keep your brain strong.
There are a number of ‘brain foods’ known for helping to keep your mind running smoothly, boost memory, and prevent strokes. These foods are naturally packed with nutrients that promote strong mental health, healthy brain cells, and increased cognitive function in a number of ways. Choosing a diet that focuses on brain health is especially important in older adults who are more prone to develop memory conditions or overall deterioration. There are many simple ways to choose foods that make up a good mind diet and help your overall wellbeing.
Whole grains, for example, can provide energy to the brain in the form of glucose. While lots of sugar is not healthy, natural glucose - like that found in whole grain foods like cereals, brown rice, whole grain bread or whole grain pastas can be very beneficial. The difference is that these foods release glucose slowly into your blood, which then supplies the brain with energy. This is much better than an artificial sugar rush from candy or sweets. This type of glucose can help you stay alert throughout the day, and boost cognitive function.
Essential Fatty Acids and Omega-3
Certain foods can also help promote healthy brain cells and prevent cognitive decline. Essential fatty acids may sound unhealthy, but they are actually a very important part of our diet and are essential to healthy brain function. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, are some of the best ‘healthy fats‘ you can ingest. You can find these in fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines to name a few. Omega-3s can also be found in a wide range of plants like flaxseed, chia seeds, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and various plant-based oils, particularly olive oil. There are many ways to gain these nutrients in your diet, but you can always boost your health with a physician-approved supplement when needed.
These fatty acids, amino acids and oils are also beneficial for your overall body health, too, as they are good for the heart and joints. Having adequate levels of DHA in your body has been linked to reducing stress, while low levels of DHA may increase the risk of dementia or the risk of Alzheimer's disease or overall memory loss in those already prone to memory conditions.
Antioxidants are also a key part of overall health and can help keep minds sharp. The brain uses a significant amount of oxygen in its daily functions, Foods such as blueberries are a strong source of antioxidants, and one of the best brain foods. They have even been linked with reducing or slowing short-term memory loss. There are a number of different types of antioxidants which can be beneficial to your body and mind, including Beta-carotene, Lycopene, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E among others.
These can be found in a wide variety of common foods, which when added to your diet, can help promote a healthy brain. Berries like blueberries, blackberries, goji berries and cranberries are high in antioxidants. Tomatoes are also a good source of antioxidants, such as lycopene. It, too, has been linked with deterring early stages of Alzheimer’s by preventing the breakdown of brain cells (known as free radical damage) associated with memory loss. Other foods high in antioxidants include avocado - which actually has a number of brain-boosting powers like lowering high blood pressure, reducing oxidative stress in the body and improving attention.
Green tea is another antioxidant, and a great alternative to coffee. Similarly, the turmeric spice is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which has been linked to improving brain function. Dark chocolate is even an antioxidant, due to its high levels of cocoa, so you can have the occasional treat without feeling too guilty - just be sure not to make it the staple of your diet.
Leafy greens and dark green vegetables are also packed with nutrients that provide health benefits for your brain. Leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard or mustard greens have Lutein, which has been linked in early research to improved cognition, as well as vitamin K, folate, flavonoids and beta-carotene which can all aid in brain health. Other vegetables that have high levels of these nutrients include broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts and cabbage.
Many of these foods mentioned above are part of the ‘Mediterranean diet’. This is not a fad type diet, but one that focuses on eating a variety of healthy foods that are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients your body needs to perform at its peak ability. The Mediterranean diet is less about a specific set of instructions and instead focuses on eating food typically found in that area of the world. It includes many of the brain healthy foods listed above, and is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, and olive oil.
These foods are simple, easily accessible foods that can be added to your diet to help you maintain a healthy brain. Keeping a balanced diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables will promote strong brain functions, and can help slow memory loss so you can continue to live your best life. Choose meals and foods that are high in antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals as part of a happy and healthy lifestyle.
You can learn more about the dining program at Pacifica Senior Living or schedule a visit to your local community and enjoy a meal on us!