By Cheryl Forberg, R.D., "Train Your (Aging) Brain,"March/April 2011
The right foods can keep your brain young. Start with these colorful veggies.
Carrots for memory. Carrots—along with bell peppers, celery, rosemary and thyme—contain luteolin, a flavonoid believed to reduce inflammation that can lead to cognitive decline. In a study published in the October 2010 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, mice that ate a diet that included luteolin had better spatial memory (e.g., how quickly they found a platform in a water maze) and less inflammation than mice who didn’t get any luteolin.
Beets to beat dementia. Beets, plus cabbages and radishes, are rich in naturally occurring nitrates—which, unlike unhealthy artificial nitrates found in processed meat, may be beneficial. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Nitric Oxide, older adults who ate a nitrate-rich diet got a boost in blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains—an area commonly associated with dementia. Poor blood flow contributes to age-related cognitive decline. Scientists think that the nitrates’ nitric oxide, a compound that keeps blood vessels supple, helps increase brain blood flow.
Think quickly with asparagus. Like leafy greens, this vegetable delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12 (in fish, poultry and meat) to help prevent cognitive impairment. In a study from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of speed and mental flexibility. If you’re 50-plus, be sure you’re getting enough B12: your ability to absorb it decreases with age.