best foods for brain health

A human brain requires energy to function and this energy comes from food. A healthy diet is important for a healthy brain and a brain-boosting diet helps to improve brain function and can prevent cognitive decline.  It is important to have a well-balanced diet in order to get all the nutrients required for the proper functioning of the brain. Research suggests that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, antioxidants, folic acid, and various vitamins are necessary to support brain health. However, it is not possible to obtain these nutrients from one single food group. So, let’s take a look at some of the best foods that can help in boosting memory, improve cognition, and overall help to improve brain health.

  1. FISH: Oily fish such as Salmon, Herring, Tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to a study, an increase in the consumption of this healthy fat led to a reduction in cognitive decline and improved cognitive function in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease.1 According to one research study, consumption of omega-3 fatty acids also led to improvement in memory in older adults.2 Salmon is also rich in zinc, vitamin D, and B vitamins, which also help in supporting brain health.
  2. AVOCADO: Avocado is a very versatile food. From adding it to your smoothies to putting it on your toast, there are many ways to incorporate this food into your diet.  Avocado is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, along with folate and vitamins like B, C, E, and potassium, which help in protecting the brain cells and also help in lowering the blood pressure.3
  3. NUTS: Nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and various vitamins such as vitamin E. Walnuts are especially rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, alpha-linolenic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids. These biomolecules have high anti-inflammatory effects. Research findings also suggest that walnuts help in decreasing the generation of free radicals (free radicals play a role in cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases) due to their anti-oxidative effects and by doing so, decrease oxidative damage to lipids and proteins.4 Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects the brain from free radicals. This helps in delaying cognitive decline in older adults as well as in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 5
  4. OLIVES AND OLIVE OIL: Olives are rich in polyphenols, which have neuroprotective effects by preventing oxidation and inflammation. Research also shows that extra virgin olive oil has a beneficial effect on learning and memory deficit related to aging and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.6
  5. BERRIES: Berries, such as strawberries and blueberries are rich in anthocyanin, which has been found to delay cognitive aging by almost 2.5 years.7 Consumption of berries also helps in cognitive learning and improving memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. 8
  6. KALE AND SPINACH: Green veggies like spinach and kale are rich in carotenoids. High carotenoid levels are associated with slower and less pronounced cognitive decline. Research also shows that spinach is also rich in folic acid, which prevents cognitive decline and dementia.9
  7. BEETS: Aging is associated with reduced blood perfusion in the brain. One study found that drinking beet juice improved blood flow to the brain. This is because beets contain nitrates, which are converted into nitrites in the human body. Nitrites help in opening the blood vessels, which allows increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. This finding might help in slowing down the progression of dementia. 10
  8. GRAPES: Grapes are rich in polyphenols, anthocyanins, and flavanols, which are associated with improvement in cognition and neuron health. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, it was concluded that consumption of grapes and grape juice is associated with enhanced neurocognition function in adults with mild dementia.11
  9. WHOLE GRAINS AND SOYBEANS: Whole grains such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and brown rice are a very good source of vitamin E. 12 Including oatmeal and berries in your breakfast is a delicious way to get a daily dose of vitamin E and antioxidants in one meal. A research study conducted in 2010, found that consumption of soybeans not only leads to improvement in memory but may also reverse memory deficit.13
  10. DARK CHOCOLATE: Dark chocolate is loaded with flavonoids, which are antioxidants that can help to reduce oxidative stress. Flavonoids also improve cerebral blood flow and prevent neuronal death.14
  11. COFFEE: It is very well known that caffeine found in coffee helps in boosting mood and improving concentration.15 Long-term consumption of coffee has been linked to reduced risk of diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and stroke.15
  12. TURMERIC: Curcumin found in turmeric is a very effective anti-inflammatory compound, which has a high potential in easing the inflammation of nerve cells seen in Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin also has antioxidant properties and has the potential of inhibiting the formation of free radicals that causes deterioration of neurons which might lead to not only Alzheimer’s but also other diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.16

Brain-boosting foods recommended by experts are packed with appropriate and adequate amount of healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidant, and vitamins such as vitamin E, which all seem to help in protecting the neurons. Maintaining a healthy balance of these food groups can not only improve brain health, but also overall health.  

References

1.      Canhada S, Castro K, Perry IS, Luft VC. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: A systematic review. Nutr Neurosci. 2018;21(8):529-538. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2017.1321813

2.      Yurko-Mauro K, Alexander DD, Van Elswyk ME. Docosahexaenoic acid and adult memory: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10(3):e0120391. Published 2015 Mar 18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0120391

3.      Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass avocado composition and potential health effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013;53(7):738-750. doi:10.1080/10408398.2011.556759

4.      Chauhan A, Chauhan V. Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):550. Published 2020 Feb 20. doi:10.3390/nu12020550

5.      La Fata G, Weber P, Mohajeri MH. Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrients. 2014;6(12):5453-5472. Published 2014 Nov 28. doi:10.3390/nu6125453

6.      Farr SA, Price TO, Dominguez LJ, et al. Extra virgin olive oil improves learning and memory in SAMP8 mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;28(1):81-92. doi:10.3233/JAD-2011-110662

7.      Devore EE, Kang JH, Breteler MM, Grodstein F. Dietary intakes of berries and flavonoids in relation to cognitive decline. Ann Neurol. 2012;72(1):135-143. doi:10.1002/ana.23594

8.      Dodd, Georgina F. et al. Acute Effects of Flavonoid-rich Blueberry on Cognitive and Vascular Function in Healthy Older Adults’. 1 Jan. 2019 : 119 – 132.

9.      Walk AM, Edwards CG, Baumgartner NW, et al. The Role of Retinal Carotenoids and Age on Neuroelectric Indices of Attentional Control among Early to Middle-Aged Adults. Front Aging Neurosci. 2017;9:183. Published 2017 Jun 9. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00183

10.  Wake Forest University. (2010, November 2). Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 8, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101102130957.htm

  1. Robert Krikorian, Erin L. Boespflug, David E. Fleck, Amanda L. Concord Grape Juice Supplementation and Neurocognitive Function in Human Aging. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2012 60 (23), 5736-5742 DOI: 10.1021/jf300277g
  1. Meeusen R. Exercise, nutrition and the brain. Sports Med. 2014;44 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S47-S56. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0150-5

13.  Bansal N, Parle M. Effect of soybean supplementation on the memory of alprazolam-induced amnesic mice. J Pharm Bioallied Sci. 2010;2(2):144-147. doi:10.4103/0975-7406.67001

  1. Nehlig A. The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013;75(3):716-727. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04378.x

15.  Nehlig A. Effects of coffee/caffeine on brain health and disease: What should I tell my patients? Pract Neurol. 2016 Apr;16(2):89-95. doi: 10.1136/practneurol-2015-001162. Epub 2015 Dec 16.

16.  Mishra S, Palanivelu K. The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008;11(1):13-19. doi:10.4103/0972-2327.40220

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay 

 

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