As we age we can easily see how some body parts don’t quite act as they did when we were younger. We know that by eating well and exercising we can maintain or build muscle mass, by exercising we can build endurance, but can our diet and lifestyle maintain or improve brain health?
Unlike organs such as the heart, liver or other organs we are more aquatinted with “supporting” via diet, exercise or supplementation, we may not think about supporting brain health quite as much, but there are some simple things you can do that will help support and nourish the brain. Of course, the basic-common sense items apply here. Diet and exercise are key. If you are struggling with brain problems, cleaning up your diet may be a great first step. Getting plenty of sleep is an important part of maintaining strong, cognitive function. Physical activity is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. Engaging in cardiovascular exercise to elevate your heart rate will increase the blood flow to your brain and body, providing additional nourishment while reducing potential dementia risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Some of the best foods to support a healthy brain include:
Blueberries seem to be good for pretty much everything, but among their legion of benefits is their ability to prevent oxidative stress in the brain. Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats. Try to eat one cup of blueberries each day (fresh, frozen or freeze dried).
Your brain is made up of a lot of fat, so eating healthy kinds of fat is a good way to give it the building blocks it needs to maintain itself. Healthy oils, such as olive oil, are rich in vitamin E and may help prevent cognitive decline. Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) that the body processes differently from most other types of fat. MCTs are absorbed directly by the liver, which converts them into a substance known as ketones, or ketoacids, that feed the brain and protect against brain atrophy.
Eating healthy fish, particularly fish such as wild deep water salmon has been found to support brain health. Rich in Omega 3s, amino acids and protein salmon is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. Omega 3s are known to improve mood and combat depression. A normal 4 ounces serving of salmon, contains at least 2 grams of omega-3 fats – more than the average U.S. adult gets from all food over the course of several days.
Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health. Rich in healthy fats, avocados support healthy hearts and blood flow, which can help keep the brain healthy, as well. Avocados are high in calories, however, so limit them to just 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal as a side dish.
Nuts & Seeds
High in vitamin E and good fats, eating nuts and seeds regularly may work towards protecting your brain and preventing cognitive decline. Higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older. Adding just an ounce a day of walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, or seeds like sunflower or sesame will provide your brain its vitamin E.