Being healthy means being physically fit, of course. But keeping your brain in shape is just as important too. Because holding on to your memories, clear thinking and the ability to effectively communicate and make your own decisions (no matter how many birthdays you have under your belt) all depend on a brain that’s as fit as your body.
So it’s important that you protect and strengthen your brain the same way you protect and strengthen the rest of your body. And one of the best ways to do that is with delicious, healthy, brain-building foods.
8 brain-friendly foods for better memory
Following are our top eight picks for brain-friendly fare you can add to your own menu, starting today…
1. Salmon, tuna, and mackerel:
Fish finds its way onto just about every list of good-for-you foods out there, and there’s a reason for that. Fish is one of the best sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids you can find. And in the case of brain-saving foods, it’s the omega-3 known as DHA that tops the list.
DHA is essential for normal brain function. And you know that saying about teaching old dogs new tricks? Well DHA can improve learning ability, which means it could be the key to teaching your “old” brain new tricks.
2. Dark, leafy greens:
Your brain is a big fan of dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and collard greens. Not only are greens rich in nutrients, they’re brimming with two specific nutrients your brain needs most: vitamin E and folate.
Vitamin E protects the nerve cells in your brain, so your neurons can keep firing. Folate is needed for proper brain function. And while everyone’s brain shrinks as they age, studies show B vitamins—including folate—may be able to help slow that shrinkage down, including shrinkage in areas of the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Fan of guacamole? Well dig in, because it turns out avocado is great for your brain! Like dark, leafy greens, avocados are packed with vitamin E. And since vitamin E supplements may not deliver all the same benefits as the natural E found in foods, it’s a good idea to have multiple sources of the vitamin in your diet.
You already know nuts are a terrific source of fiber and energizing protein. But that’s not where the nut benefits stop. They’re also a great source of brain-protecting healthy fats and vitamin E, too.
Peanuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are particularly good sources of both nutrients, and can help keep your brain as sharp as a tack for years to come. And walnuts are packed with brain-building DHA. In fact, folks who ate more walnuts performed better on a half a dozen cognitive tests in a University of California study.
Not only are berries a tasty source of the antioxidants your brain needs to stay healthy, blueberries, strawberries, and acai berries have been shown to reduce levels of certain proteins that have been linked to age-related memory loss. According to findings from the long-running U.S. Nurses’ Health Study, eating over a half-cup of blueberries a week, or two and a half cups of strawberries, could slash over two years off of your brain aging.
6. Dark chocolate:
With more powerful antioxidants than even berries or green tea, chocolate is a surprising entry on the brain-foods list. The key to harnessing this treat’s brain-building powers is to make sure you’re choosing dark chocolate, with at least 70 percent cacao. Dark chocolate will deliver all the powerful antioxidants your brain craves, while helping to improve blood-vessel health for better blood flow throughout your brain.
7. Pumpkin seeds:
Next time you slice up a pumpkin to make a Jack O’Lantern, or a delicious side dish (yes, this often overlooked squash is delicious, click here to learn more) be sure to hold on to the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are loaded with memory-enhancing zinc, which has been linked to improved cognitive abilities. Bonus – zinc can help improve your mood, too.
Raw or steamed, broccoli’s a brain-friendly veggies. Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter that allows cells in your brain to communicate. But we tend to make less acetylcholine as we age, and running low on this chemical could affect your memory, and is linked to cognitive decline.
Broccoli is rich in one of the essential building blocks of acetylcholine, choline. Plus, it’s packed with vitamin K, which has been linked to better brain power. Older folks with higher levels of vitamin K were found to perform better on tests of verbal memory, than their peers with lower levels of the valuable vitamin.
Protect your brain, and hold on to your precious memories, with these brain-saving – and delicious! – foods.