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Brain Matters – 10 Foods that Support Brain Health

Posted by Dr. Coreyann Poly PhD, MEd, RD, LD/N, Director of Clinical Nutrition Services for SALMON Health and Retirement on | No Comments

Brain Matters - 10 Foods that Support Brain Health

A big part of aging well is brain health. As we age, our brains tend to lose some of their elasticity, making the connections we need to focus on tasks and remember things more difficult. By ensuring your brain is healthy, you can help prevent these things from happening. The latest research shows a healthy diet and lifestyle can, no matter our age, improve the functioning of our brains. According to Harvard Medical School, a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients is one of the key factors in preventing cognitive decline as you age. From maintaining a healthy weight to eating "brain-friendly" foods, what you put on your plate on a daily basis can affect everything from mental clarity to having enough energy to keep up with the grandchildren. Here are 10 brain-friendly foods to include in your healthy diet:

Berries, anyone?

Most berries are full of antioxidants, great for boosting the brain. Blueberries can improve your motor skills as well as overall learning capacity. Berries such as strawberries also contain fisetin, the most effective flavenoid at causing new brain growth, which improves your memory.

What about nuts?

Nuts are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as folate, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, all important nutrients for the brain allowing you to think more clearly and positively. Walnuts are the top nut for brain health because they have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid shown to improve cognitive performance and prevent age-related cognitive decline. Vitamin E intake is also associated with improved cognitive function; almonds and hazelnuts are two of the most concentrated sources of vitamin E.

It’s pumpkin time!

Pumpkins are packed with nutrients that support brain health including B-vitamins like riboflavin and folic acid, as well as a good source of Vitamin C. Carotenoids (which give pumpkins their bright orange color) are nutrients that protect against aging by neutralizing free radicals. Don’t skip the pumpkin seeds. They are a great source of dietary fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids, good for the heart and gut. They are also a good source of protein, including the amino acid tryptophan, which helps our bodies produce serotonin, a mood-regulating hormone acting as a “feel good” neurotransmitter improving mood and relaxation.

Pomegranate – Yum!

The antioxidants pomegranate juice contains help maintain your general well-being. Numerous studies have suggested the nutrients contained in pomegranates can help protect your brain from different forms of damage. Knowing how helpful pomegranate juice can be may give you the motivation to make pomegranate juice a permanent component of your diet.

Flax – you said what?

Not everyone is familiar with flax. Flax is a seed rich in the plant-based Omega-3 fatty acid Alpha-linolenic acid which helps to control blood clotting, build cell membranes in the brain and reduce inflammation. Add ground flax to your oatmeal for a delicious, nutritious breakfast!

Leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables are full of B vitamins such as vitamin B6, B12, and folate. B vitamins are essential to nerve and brain function. These vitamins help greatly when it comes time to remember old information. 

It’s Salmon Time…

Salmon is full of Omega-3, a fatty acid known to be highly beneficial to the brain. Omega-3 also provides more oxygen to the brain and allows us to retain new information while still remembering old information. The best fish to eat for brain health are salmon, tuna, and herring. Vitamin B12 is important for everything from maintaining healthy nerve and blood vessels to making DNA. B12 deficiency has been shown to lead to a number of symptoms such as depression, balance problems, and memory loss, all higher risk factors for seniors.

Eggs

Eggs are full of vitamin B12 as well as lecithin. Vitamin B12 helps to fight brain shrinkage. The yolk is high in choline, the precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter in your brain that helps improve your memory. Eating 1-2 egg products a day can be great for your brain.

Tea

Green or black tea is full of catechins, great for keeping your mind sharp, fresh, and functioning properly. Not only do they keep your brain working right, they also allow it to relax and help fight mental fatigue.

Did you say Dark Chocolate?

It’s true: dark chocolate is perfect for brain health and besides who doesn't love a good piece of chocolate? The flavonoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate with higher cocoa content have been found to act as a brain food which can potentially protect cognitive function and lower the risk of dementia. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and contains important minerals for the brain such as magnesium. Magnesium helps the brain relax, and sleep better. 

So there you have it – 10 delicious foods you can incorporate into your diet to help your brain stay healthy and strong. The best diet for your brain is one that's good for your heart and blood vessels. That means eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; eating lean proteins from fish and legumes, and choosing healthy unsaturated fats such as olive oil or canola oil rather than saturated fats such as butter and coconut oil. Following these guidelines as seen in the Mediterranean diet not only helps promote long-term health but helps prevent many age-associated brain diseases and ailments such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, and cognitive decline.

The menu at SALMON Health and Retirement is loaded with brain healthy foods such as flax, leafy greens, salmon, berries and more. Taking care of the brain for our Elders is a top priority for us.

For more information about the continuum of care at SALMON Health and Retirement, contact us today by calling 800-446-8060 to learn more.