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Published on: 29-Apr-2022

You are what you eat! When it comes to cognitive function, the way you fuel your body can reap long-term benefits for your brain and keep it sharp as you age. If these 10 foods are not already in your diet, it’s time to add them to keep your brain in peak condition:  

Avocado

Avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which helps with healthy blood flow, reducing the risk of plaque buildup and enhancing blood flow to the brain.

Blueberries
Blueberries contain anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. A number of animal studies point to blueberries as a superfood that may help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals and reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Broccoli

Green veggies definitely live up to the hype when it comes to healthy eating. Broccoli is packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, which protect the brain against damage, and vitamin K, which is linked to memory and cognition.

Coffee

The caffeine and antioxidants in coffee support brain health and provide increased alertness and sharpened concentration. Studies show that consumption of caffeine lead to short-term improvements in attention and cognition.

Dark chocolate

Go ahead and reach for that dark chocolate guilt free. It offers flavonoids, which are antioxidants and gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory. Studies show these compounds may enhance memory in addition to slowing age-related mental decline.

Eggs

Eggs are high in vitamins B6 and B12, which support brain health. Egg yolks are also the best source of choline, which has been linked to improved memory and cognitive function.

Fatty Fish

The name doesn’t sound terribly appealing, but fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and trout, contain omega-3 fatty acids that the brain needs to build brain and nerve cells. Omega-3s are essential for both cognition and memory.

Green tea and Matcha

Studies prove that both green tea and matcha, which has higher amounts of green tea phytochemicals, improve alertness, performance, memory, and focus. Additionally, the L-theanine in green teas helps relaxation by reducing caffeine induced arousal.

Pumpkin seeds

Tiny pumpkin seeds pack a powerful punch of nutrients and antioxidants that protect the brain. In addition, they offer an excellent source of magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc, which aid learning, memory, and nerve signaling.

Turmeric

Studies indicate that Turmeric may help protect the brain against common degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BNDF is a protein found in the brain and spinal cord that plays a key role in keeping nerve cells (neurons) healthy and regulating communication between nerve cells, which is critical for learning and memory.

Of course, there are a number of other nutrient-packed foods that can help keep your brain healthy. Likewise, there are many foods to avoid, including those that are high in trans fats, sugars, and refined carbs, which can have negative impact on learning, memory and mental acuity. You can boost your brain health by avoiding these foods and strategically including the top ten in your daily diet.


Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center

References:

Kalt, W, Cassidy A, Howard LR, Krikorian R, Stull AJ, Tremblay F, Zamora-Ros R. Recent Research on the Health Benefits of Blueberries and Their Anthocyanins. Adv Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;11(2):224-236. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmz065. PMID: 31329250; PMCID: PMC7442370.

Pasman WJ, Boessen R, Donner Y, Clabbers N, Boorsma A. Effect of Caffeine on Attention and Alertness Measured in a Home-Setting, Using Web-Based Cognition Tests. JMIR Res Protoc. 2017 Sep 7;6(9):e169.

Rathod R, Kale A, Joshi S. Novel insights into the effect of vitamin B₁₂ and omega-3 fatty acids on brain function. J Biomed Sci. 2016 Jan 25;23:17. doi: 10.1186/s12929-016-0241-8.

Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(19):2876-2905. doi: 10.2174/1381612823666170105151800.

Grassi D, Socci V, Tempesta D, Ferri C, De Gennaro L, Desideri G, Ferrara M. Flavanol-rich chocolate acutely improves arterial function and working memory performance counteracting the effects of sleep deprivation in healthy individuals. J Hypertens. 2016 Jul;34(7):1298-308.

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