6 Foods You Should Be Eating Every Day for Better Brain Health, According to a Dietitian
The brain is a very important organ. It's the control center of your body and allows you to move, think, feel, breathe and more. Because the brain has such a big job, it's imperative that we provide it with an abundance of fuel and nutrients to help it function properly and stay healthy. The foods we eat play a huge role in the structure and health of our brains. Research shows that foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavanols, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids can help protect your brain. They can help to improve memory, concentration and overall brain health.
Additionally, research has shown that following the MIND diet, a mashup of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet that promotes eating specific brain-healthy foods, can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Many of the foods we've included here are also on the MIND diet's list of best brain foods. Here are six things you should be eating for better brain health.
6 Foods to Eat Every Day for Better Brain Health
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, are packed with nutrients, including vitamin K, beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), folate and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage and has been linked to preventing cognitive decline in the aging population. Vitamin K and beta carotene have also been linked to improving brain health by helping to prevent memory loss and improve cognition. Increasing your intake of leafy greens doesn't have to be hard. You can try adding a handful of greens when preparing a smoothie or adding a serving of greens to your favorite casserole recipe.
Are you a fan of lamb? If so, you may be surprised to know that lamb has been linked to benefits such as long-term cognition. According to a recent study, weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was associated with improved long-term cognition. The 10-year study noted improvements in fluid intelligence scores in individuals who consumed certain foods, including lamb. Lamb is produced in every state in the U.S. and available year-round, which makes it easy to add it to your diet. Try adding lamb to your favorite stew recipe or cooking it on the grill.
Eggs are possibly the most popular breakfast food—and for good reason. They are inexpensive and offer a host of health benefits, especially when it comes to brain health. Did you know that regular consumption of eggs has been associated with improved cognitive performance in adults? Eggs are one of the best food sources of choline. Choline has been linked to reducing inflammation and promoting brain function, like maintaining memory and communications between brain cells. Even though eggs are commonly served at breakfast, you can enjoy them at any meal. Try using eggs to make a savory dinner quiche, or fabulous creamy custard for dessert.
Salmon is commonly known as a great source of protein, but did you know that it was also great for brain health? Fatty fish like salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for brain development and function. In addition to improved brain health, these fatty acids have been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and arthritis. Salmon can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be seared and paired with hearty serving of vegetables or added to your favorite pasta dish. Our five-star Walnut-Rosemary Crusted Salmon will help boost your omega-3 intake in a delicious way.
While all berries are beneficial for brain health, blueberries are at the top of the list. They contribute essential nutrients to the body, including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and phytonutrients. These nutrients help to stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, resulting in improved concentration. Evidence suggests that eating a diet containing a variety of vegetables and fruits, such as blueberries, is associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. There are many ways to enjoy this tasty fruit—try adding a handful to your smoothie recipe or pureeing a few berries to make a delicious blueberry chia jam.
Nuts are a great addition to any diet regimen, but the one that contributes most to brain health is walnuts. When compared to other nuts, walnuts offer twice as many antioxidants. They contain an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid that helps to counteract cognitive decline by suppressing inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Evidence suggests that eating about 1 to 2 ounces of walnuts per day can improve cognitive function. Try adding a serving of walnuts to a hearty salad or pairing them with a variety of roasted vegetables.
The Bottom Line
The foods you eat play an important role in brain health. You can help to improve your brain health, memory and alertness by including a variety of nutritious foods such as leafy greens, lamb, eggs, salmon, blueberries and walnuts in your daily diet. These foods may also help to reduce the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.