From studies on the Mediterranean diet to the creation of the MIND diet, we’ve learned a lot in the last decade or so about how our diet can affect our brain and cognitive function. But a new study out of Columbia University went beyond the symptoms to find out how food affects the brain itself.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, revealed how the foods we eat can literally leave us with a heavier brain. And how what we eat can protect our brain from the kind of shrinkage that’s linked to cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Now a bit of brain shrink is normal as we age, of course. But when that shrink is on fast forward all bets are off, because your brain is the very last place you want to lose weight. Eventually, with too much shrinkage you begin to lose some of your ability to process information, making it more difficult to think, reason, and remember.
But don’t feel discouraged. Following are six research-proven foods that can help you put the brakes on brain shrink, leaving you with a healthier, beefier brain.
1. Organic, grass-fed beef:
If you’ve cut red meat out of your diet because you thought it was the healthy move to make, it’s time to lift the ban. Because grass-fed beef is one of the best sources of vitamin B12 around and B12 is vital for brain health.
People who cut meat completely out of their diets tend to experience greater brain shrinkage than meat-lovers. And beef eaters typically maintain brain volume longer. So go ahead and indulge in some grass-fed beef from time to time. A weekly steak should do the trick.
While it may feel like you’re just munching on crunchy water, celery actually has serious health benefits, including being great for your brain. Inflammation can damage every system, organ, and cell in your body, but a compound found in celery, called luteolin, reduces inflammation and its damage, especially in your brain.
Magnesium deficiency is strongly associated with cognitive decline, but it can be hard for your body to absorb and use magnesium supplements. Your best bet is to get your magnesium from food, and just three dried figs will give you almost 17 mg of magnesium while satisfying your sweet tooth at the same time.
Polyphenols, the powerful antioxidant found in pomegranates, have firmly established this exotic fruit as a superfood. But according to a study published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience, it’s the compound urolithins that makes pomegranate a brain booster. The urolithins can reportedly cross the blood-brain barrier, which is the key to protecting your brain health.
If you don’t eat a lot of the fruit it can be difficult to get enough urolithins from pomegranate seeds alone. So in the off-season, you can try drinking 100 percent pomegranate juice instead. Just be sure to keep it moderate since the sugar content in juice tends to be high. There are supplements available too.
The powerfully protective omega-3s found in wild-caught salmon, tuna, or other fatty fish can essentially shave the equivalent of three to four years of aging off of your brain. Aim for at least 3-5 ounces of fatty fish per week.
If you haven’t figured out a way to incorporate more turmeric into your diet yet, it’s time. Studies have shown that turmeric contributes to brain cell growth and regeneration. You can start by sprinkling ground turmeric over chicken or veggies for a delicious, brain-healthy twist on an old favorite.
Protecting your brain doesn’t have to be complicated. And even better, it can be downright delicious!