If your idea of a perfect day begins with eggs and coffee, includes a piece of dark chocolate after lunch, and ends with a glass of wine before bedtime, then congratulations: You might be smarter than you realize. These are among the foods deemed good for the brain because of the nutrients they provide.
Research has shown that foods that contain nutrients such as omega-3s, choline, B vitamins, and antioxidants have a big impact on cognitive function and overall health. Consuming them on a regular basis, and in the right portions, provides fuel for an organ that works all day managing your thoughts, movements, heartbeat, and breathing, whether you’re in the middle of a complicated work project or sound asleep. Knowing which foods are good for your brain – and which aren’t – can not only keep you sharp and productive but also prolong your life and lighten your mood.
Diets rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and seafood – such as those popular in Japan and the Mediterranean – have shown to lower your risk of depression and improve your cognitive abilities. Conversely, diets that are high in sugars and processed and refined foods have the opposite effect. They raise your risk of depression, often make you sluggish and grumpy, impede your cognitive functions, and can lead to health problems.
Even certain foods that are good for the brain should be consumed in moderation. For example, coffee is a goods source of antioxidants and has been linked to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but you don’t want to guzzle a whole pot every morning. Red wine contains flavonoids with neuroprotective qualities, but try to limit yourself to no more than one glass at a time. Dark chocolate composed of at least 85% cacoa improves blood flow to the brain. Just don’t get in the habit of scarfing down a dozen pieces in one sitting.
Here’s a look at other foods that are good for the brain, and why:
Most people know about the health benefits of spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, collards and other greens. But you might not know that just one daily serving of green leafy vegetables can slow age-related cognitive decline because they contain brain-healthy nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and K, lutein and folate
Blueberries and strawberries are not only delicious – but they also contain flavonoid antioxidants that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can help slow age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Blueberries might also help delay short-term memory loss.
Fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids that can help improve memory and mood and protect the brain against decline. The unsaturated fats found in these fish have also been linked to lower levels of beta-amyloid, a protein that forms damaging brain clumps in Alzheimer’s patients.
Nuts and Seeds
Sunflower seeds, almonds, and hazelnuts are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cell membranes from damage caused by oxidative stress, which increases with age and contributes to cognitive decline. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids that provide the same brain benefits as fatty fish.
The choline found in eggs can protect against cognitive decline by helping brain cells communicate with each other and sharpen memories. Eggs also contain brain-boosting B vitamins. If your diet allows, eat the whole egg to get the most benefit.
The whole grains found in rice, barley, bulgur, whole-wheat bread and similar foods are rich in soluble fiber, which prevents plaque from forming in arteries. This improves blood flow to the brain and can help reduce the risk of developing dementia and stroke.
Turmeric, a popular spice in curry, is rich in curcumin, an antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory that can help improve memory and mood for those who suffer from mild, age-related memory loss. Turmeric might also lower your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.