They say you are what you eat, and that’s certainly true when it comes to our brains. The foods we eat can directly impact our cognitive functions, particularly as the brain uses around 20% of the body’s daily calorie needs, so it is important to fuel it in the right way to ensure that it stays healthy and to ward against cognitive decline. We take a look at some of the benefits of eating for better brain health and the foods you need to include in your diet.
Whether you’re working in an office all day, studying for exams or playing games, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time is an essential skill that can make all the difference. Although some people are naturally better at concentrating, concentration abilities can be improved through practice and consuming the right brain fuel. If you’re looking to get ahead at work, ace those exams, or improve your poker strategy, it might just come down to eating the right brain foods to give you the edge. Foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish, walnuts, or berries all work to keep the memory sharp and cognitive function at its best.
Research indicates that eating the right foods can drastically improve memory. This is because when we eat foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, the LDL cholesterol in these foods builds up and damages the arteries. This build-up can also affect the brain and has been linked to cognitive decline, loss of memory, and neurocognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Prevent cognitive decline
It has been found that eating certain foods and avoiding others can actually slow the brain’s aging process by a huge 7.5 years. Not only this but eating for the brain also reduces the chances of developing neurodegenerative diseases later on.
The benefits to eating for better brain health are clear, but what are the best foods to eat in order to boost your brain’s function?
Green leafy vegetables
Loading up on leafy green vegetables is a great way to boost brain power and stave off cognitive illnesses. Foods such as kale, spinach, lettuce, or collards are ideal for lowering the risk of dementia while slowing the brain’s aging process. This is because they are rich in vitamin E, folate, flavonoids, and carotenoids.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants which protect cells from oxidative stress. As we age, our brains are exposed to more oxidative stress, so vitamin E can help to support the brain and improve cognition.
Research shows that out of all of the fruits, berries are the best for staving off cognitive decline. This is because they are super high in flavonoids which are great for boosting brain health.
Whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain bread, wholegrain pasta, barley, and bulgur wheat are all rich in vitamin E which is great for maintaining brain health.
A great source of healthy, unsaturated fat, avocados can help to reduce blood pressure and high blood pressure has been linked with cognitive decline.
So, which foods should be avoided?
Reduce meat intake
Ok, so a plant-based diet might not suit everyone, but reducing meat intake to just three or four days a week (or even less) has been shown to have positive effects on the brain’s health. Replace it with protein-rich foods such as legumes, pulses, and soy which are all packed with B vitamins and help to keep the brain in great condition.
Sugary drinks increase the risk of type 2 diabetes which can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease; furthermore, higher blood sugar levels can increase the risk of dementia.
Highly processed foods
Foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fats tend to have a low nutritional value which means they cause weight gain and negatively impact the brain’s health.
Take care of your brain by switching up your diet a little and including as many brain-boosting foods as you can.
Photos are from Pexels
Manuela Muroni is Barcelona-based freelance writer, she has been writing professionally since 2008. When she’s not glued to a computer screen she’s most likely playing beach volleyball or painting abstract art.