Your brain is kind of a big deal. As the control center of your body, the brain is responsible for keeping your heart beating and lungs breathing, as well as allowing you to move, feel, and think.
It is beneficial to maintain your brain in optimal condition. Your diet affects your brain health, which in turn affects your ability to remember things and concentrate.
If you want to improve your nutrition or stay sharp for a work meeting, paying attention to your diet can be beneficial. There is no one food that can protect against Alzheimer’s or dementia, but eating healthy foods can help get the nutrients you need for cognitive health and mood.
1. Fatty Fish
The seafood that is highest in omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines.
Approximately 60% of your brain is made up of fat, with half of that fat being made up of omega-3 fatty acids.
Your brain needs omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, which are essential for learning and memory.
Omega-3s also offer several additional benefits for your brain. They could help improve mental clarity and prevent Alzheimer’s.
Not eating enough omega-3s can result in learning impairments and depression.
Some research suggests that people who eat fish regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains. This may be due to the fact that fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a number of benefits for brain health. Most of the cells that control decision making, memory, and emotion are located in the gray matter.
Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for the development of the brain. The benefits of omega-3s go beyond just heart health. These essential fatty acids also play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against cognitive decline.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) must be obtained through food, because the body cannot make them. The most effective omega-3 fats are found in oily fish in the form of EPA and DHA. Foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and their oils. Omega 3 fats are beneficial for many aspects of our health, including brain function, the heart, and joints. Studies suggest that consuming omega-3 fats could potentially relieve symptoms of depression.
Sufficient levels of DHA and EPA are thought to help manage stress and improve mood by increasing levels of serotonin. Low DHA levels may be linked to an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and memory loss.
If you’re someone who enjoys coffee each morning, you’ll be happy to know that it has some health benefits. Coffee is the most popular beverage after water the world over.
There are two main things in coffee that can help your brain – caffeine and antioxidants.
The caffeine found in coffee has a number of positive effects on the brain, including:
- Increased alertness. Caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you feel sleepy.
- Improved mood. Caffeine may also boost some of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters, such as dopamine
- Sharpened concentration. One study found that caffeine consumption led to short-term improvements in attention and alertness in participants completing a cognition test.
Coffee has also been shown to reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The biggest risk reduction was found in adults who drank 3-4 cups of coffee a day.
The high concentration of antioxidants in coffee may at least partially account for its health benefits.
Coffee can help boost alertness and mood. The antioxidants and caffeine in coffee may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The health benefits of blueberries include some that are specifically for your brain.
The anthocyanins in blueberries may help to reduce inflammation and improve antioxidant status.
Antioxidants help protect the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
The accumulation of some of the antioxidants present in blueberries has been found to help improve communication between brain cells.
One review of 11 studies has found that blueberries could improve memory and certain cognitive processes in children and older adults.
Blueberries can be enjoyed in many ways. Try adding them to your breakfast cereal, enjoying them in a smoothie, or eating them as a simple snack.
Blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants, which may help to prevent brain aging and improve memory function.
Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently. The benefits of this deep-yellow spice for the brain are vast. It is a key ingredient in curry powder and has shown to improve cognitive function and protect the brain from age-related degeneration.
Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier to directly enter the brain and provide benefits to the cells.
It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:
- May benefit memory. Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease
- Eases depression. Curcumin boosts serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve mood. One review found that curcumin could improve symptoms of depression and anxiety when used alongside standard treatments in people diagnosed with depression
- Helps new brain cells grow. Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed
When using turmeric as a spice, people typically consume much less curcumin than what is used in most studies, which use highly concentrated curcumin supplements in doses ranging from 500-2,000mg per day. Turmeric only contains around 3-6% of curcumin.
In order to get the benefits from turmeric that have been reported in studies, you may need to use a curcumin supplement rather than just adding turmeric to your food. You should speak to a doctor before taking any supplements.
Broccoli is a vegetable that contains many powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants.
A single cup of cooked broccoli contains more than the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. This vitamin is essential for forming a type of fat that is densely packed into brain cells.
A few studies among older adults have found that those who consume more vitamin K have better memory and cognitive function.
Broccoli is rich in vitamin K and various other compounds that offer anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, potentially guarding against brain damage.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect against cell damage from free radicals.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper.
Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:
- Zinc. This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease
- Magnesium. Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraine, depression, and epilepsy
- Copper. Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of whack, there’s a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s
- Iron. Iron deficiency is often characterized by brain fog and impaired brain function
This research focuses on micronutrients, rather than pumpkin seeds. Adding pumpkin seeds to your diet is a great way to reap their benefits, as they are high in micronutrients.
Pumpkin seeds contain many micronutrients that are essential for brain function, such as copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
May improve concentration and focus.
The brain needs energy to function properly. An adequate, steady supply of energy in our blood (in the form of glucose) allows us to concentrate and focus. Whole grains with a low-GI release their energy slowly, keeping you alert during the day.
If you don’t eat enough healthy carbohydrates, you may have trouble thinking clearly and be easily irritated. Choose brown wholegrain cereals, granary bread, rice, and pasta.
May prevent free radical damage
Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.
Cook your tomatoes if you want to get the most out of them. Add a little olive oil to help your body absorb and use them more effectively. Papaya, watermelon, and pink grapefruit contain similar protective phytonutrients.
May delay brain shrinkage.
B6, B12, and folic acid vitamins are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in blood. Having high levels of homocysteine in your blood is linked to a greater chance of having a stroke, problems with thinking and memory, and Alzheimer’s disease.
A study found that elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment who were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid had significantly less brain shrinkage after two years than those given a placebo.
Other B vitamins, including B1, B3, and choline, play an important role in regulating normal brain function. Choline, found in egg yolk, is important for acetylcholine, a brain chemical that increases memory.
Choose foods high in vitamin B like eggs, chicken, fish, leafy greens and dairy. If you’re vegan, you may need to get vitamin B12 from fortified foods or supplements since it’s mostly found in animal products. Good sources of B12 for vegans include plant milks and breakfast cereals. Besides nutritional yeast, avocado, soya, nuts, and seeds, there are other vegan sources of B vitamins, including B6.
May reduce anxiety and stress.
Vitamin C has been long-thought to improve mental clarity and some research suggests that a deficiency may put someone at risk for degenerative brain diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Interesting studies have found that vitamin C could help manage anxiety and stress.
Blackcurrants are a great source of the vital vitamin. Other things that can help you get your daily dose of vitamin C include red peppers, broccoli, and oranges.
May boost memory and concentration.
Sage has been thought to improve memory and concentration for a long time. In addition to sage being an essential oil, eating sage may also be beneficial. To preserve the beneficial oils, add them at the end of cooking.
There is still relatively limited research linking diet and dementia, but there are some important relationships between nutrients and brain health that are worth investigating further.
When we have a healthy, balanced diet, it gives our brain a better chance of avoiding sickness. If you believe that your diet is not providing you with all the nutrients you need, you may want to consider taking a multivitamin and mineral complex as well as an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
These supplements can help make up for a few of the essential nutrients you may be lacking. It is always a good idea to speak with your GP or another healthcare professional before taking any type of supplement.
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