Eat These 6 Foods High in Nutrients for Better Brain Health

by Lochlan

Your brain will naturally change as you age, but there are many things you can do to maintain brain health throughout your life and lower your chance of getting neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s) as you become older. You can develop fundamentally sound habits like exercising frequently, attempting new things, and making sleep a priority. There is even proof that cleaning your home improves your cognitive function!

Additionally, concentrating on your diet is one of your finest options for maintaining mental acuity. After all, the brain needs the right fuel—that is, nutrients—to function at its best, just like any well-oiled engine, according to Lenox Hill Hospital registered dietitian Jonathan Purtell, RD.

Purtell points out that the brain is constantly active and does not take breaks. It controls vital activities like breathing, movement, and temperature regulation, to mention a few, in addition to cognitive ones like memory and learning. Consuming brain healthy foods will promote these processes and, eventually, general wellness.

Basics of Brain Food

However, precisely what does a brain-friendly diet entail? Eating fresh, complete foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins is usually part of it. According to Casey Kelley, MD, ABoIM, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health, these foods contain important nutrients for brain health, such as antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, and K.

Eating well for brain health also involves avoiding certain foods. Limiting processed meals, which are heavy in added sugar, salt, and trans fats—nutrients that impede brain function by causing oxidative stress and inflammation—will benefit your brain. Fortunately, these recommendations include general body and brain wellness, making things simpler.

Still, certain meals should be mentioned in relation to brain health. Continue reading to find out which ones, in the opinion of medical experts, are the greatest to have in your diet.

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Top Foods for Healthy Brain Function

  1. green leafy vegetables

According to Dr. Kelley, “leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and broccoli, are vital for maintaining your brain in top health.” This is due to the fact that these vegetables are nutrient-dense and essential for brain health.

For instance, vitamin A is included in leafy greens and helps neurons, or nerve cells, control memory and learning.1. They also include vitamin C and vitamin K, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, respectively, according to Dr. Kelley.

This is important since two of your brain’s deadliest enemies are inflammation and oxidative stress.2. Just to refresh your memory: Free radicals, which are dangerous chemicals that accumulate and cause inflammation and cell damage, are the cause of oxidative stress. According to Purtell, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress can hasten the onset of a number of neurological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases.

The Amount Required

Dr. Kelley advises consuming at least two to three cups of dark leafy greens daily for the most benefits to the brain. But it does not have to be just salads all the time. Dr. Kelley suggests blending some kale into a smoothie or adding a cup of spinach to your eggs. A different approach is to sauté a cup of greens with a soup or stew. The greens will eventually wilt, giving a bountiful (and easy) dose of taste and nutrition.

  1. Berries

Dr. Kelley claims that flavonoids, a kind of antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors, are abundant in berries. “But flavonoids do more than just make food look pretty,” she continues.

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reports that flavonoids decrease biological processes that would otherwise interfere with nerve cell communication, hence supporting cognitive functions.3.

Sadiq A, Junaid M, Ayaz M, et al. Potential neuroprotectants: flavonoids and their potential for treating neurological problems linked to aging. 2019;11:155; doi:10.3389/fnagi.2019.00155; Front Aging Neurosci.

Furthermore, flavonoids shield nerve cells from oxidative stress as antioxidants, which further guards against neurodegenerative diseases.

The Amount Required

Dr. Kelley recommends “trying [eating] half a cup of berries, particularly blueberries or strawberries, at least three times a week.” “Incorporate them into your breakfast smoothies, mix them into yogurt or oatmeal, or add them to salads for a sweet twist.”

  1. Nuts

If you are not already a nut fan, these remarkable brain advantages will convert you. Purtell claims that omega-3 fatty acids, or “good” fats, are found in nuts and can support the structural integrity of your brain. They are also necessary for healthy blood flow, which guarantees that your brain gets enough oxygen to function. Nuts also include zinc, selenium, and vitamin E, all of which have antioxidant qualities. According to Purtell, these nutrients “pick up” free radicals in the body and prevent oxidative stress.

The Amount Required

Purtell states, “At least four times a week, 1.5 ounces of unsalted nuts are recommended by the American Heart Association.”4 (A tiny handful of nuts or two teaspoons of nut butter correspond to a serving size of 1.5 ounces.)

There are a variety of nuts available to you, so feel free to experiment. Among the delectable options are cashews, walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Take them as is for an easy snack, or mix them with granola, yogurt, or oatmeal. Want something salty to eat? Crushed nuts can be used in place of breadcrumbs for coating proteins, such as tofu or fish.

  1. Saturated Fish

According to Dr. Kelley, fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, just like almonds. These lipids not only maintain the structural integrity of your brain but also aid in lowering blood levels of beta-amyloid, a kind of protein.

According to Dr. Kelley, eating a lot of omega-3 fatty acids can help lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which are linked to high levels of beta-amyloid. As to a 2020 study, eating fish might actually help with cognitive functions including executive functioning and memory.5.

The Amount Required

Eating fatty fish at least twice a week is advised by Dr. Kelley. The American Heart Association states that approximately 3 ounces, or ¾ cup, of cooked fish is one serving.Six Dr. Kelley advises selecting mercury-free options while you are at it. These include pollock, salmon, tilapia, and sardines.

  1. Deep Chocolate

Good news, fans of dark chocolate! According to Frontiers in Nutrition, this sweet (but not overly sugary) treat is rich in antioxidant flavonoids, which promote brain health by enhancing nerve cell function (and regeneration).7. Additionally, they participate in biological processes or pathways that shield the aforementioned nerve cells from harm. Furthermore, flavonoids reduce the risk of heart disease, which helps to maintain normal blood flow to the brain, according to Purtell.

The Amount Required

Dark chocolate has several benefits for the brain, so you should have it every day. The suggested serving size, according to Purtell, is one ounce, or one square, of dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cacao. He continues, “Be careful to look for additional sugars on the nutrition label.” Although chocolate with greater cocoa percentages tends to be lower in sugar, Purtell notes that a high intake of processed sugar might cause oxidative stress.

  1. Tea

Certain teas, such lion’s mane, black, and green tea, are particularly good for brain health because of their high antioxidant content. Purtell continues, “one amino acid that has been proved to boost focus and alertness” is L-theanine, which is found in tea. As an illustration, consider the following: L-theanine enhanced middle-aged and older people’ performance on attention and memory tests in a 2021 study.8

Furthermore, according to Purtell, lion’s mane tea—a particular kind of medicinal mushroom tea—can shield nerve cells in the area of the brain responsible for memory. And it makes sense: lion’s mane tea is a great beverage for supporting brain function because it is high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The Amount Required

Drinking one cup of tea every day is a great method to acquire enough of nutrients that support brain function. However, Purtell suggests up to two or three cups each day for maximum advantages.

Remember that black and green teas include caffeine, so if you are sensitive to it, try to limit your intake of these teas late in the day. Although lion’s mane tea is naturally caffeine-free, you should always verify on the label that no additional caffeine-containing substances are included.