Too often do you hear phrases like, “My mother has Alzheimer’s disease,” or, “My father has dementia.” The sad reality of growing old is that the brain starts to deteriorate. In fact, research shows that roughly one in nine adults in the United States develop some form of cognitive decline. Fortunately, there are daily habits that can drastically reduce your risk of diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Placing more focus on what goes into your grocery cart and on your plate can help you avoid cognitive decline. Avoiding ultra-processed foods may be one of the best dietary interventions you make. Research shows that these foods, which include things like packaged snacks foods and sugary beverages, are largely responsible for high rates of cognitive decline. This is especially true for people who follow the Standard American Diet. A recent 2022 study indicated that replacing 10% of your ultra-processed food intake with fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains helped reduce dementia risk by 19%. This study followed 72,083 adults 55 years or older for 10 years. The general observation was that providing the body with foods that exhibit brain-protecting nutrients helped improve overall cognition.
Since food is one of the easiest ways you can improve brain health, why not start eating healthier for your brain? Keep your brain functioning optimally by giving it foods that contain brain-boosting nutrients. Continue reading to learn about which foods benefit your brain.
Loaded with anthocyanins, which are plant compounds that exhibit anti-inflammatory properties, blueberries may provide protection against oxidative stress and inflammation. Both oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Some of the antioxidants in blueberries may accumulate in the brain and improve communication between brain cells. Several review studies also concluded that blueberries helped to improve memory and certain cognitive processes in children and older adults.
Not all lentils are created equal when it comes to boosting brain health. Black lentils, just like all legumes, are naturally rich in fiber. According to a 2022 study, a diet lacking in fiber may be jeopardizing long-term brain function. Adults should consume 28 grams of fiber per day on a 2,000 calorie diet. In addition to being rich in soluble fiber, black lentils, just like blueberries, contain anthocyanins. A 2021 study found that adults who ate at least half a serving of foods rich in flavonoids experienced reduced their risk of cognitive decline by 20%. Anthocyanins exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help prevent premature loss of cognitive abilities.
Adding more protein to your diet isn’t just beneficial for building lean muscle; rather, it may potentially slow brain decline. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an investigative report that tested the associations between yearly protein intake and age-related cognitive decline. The results found that adult women and men who consumed more protein than carbohydrates over several years experienced fewer signs of cognitive decline. Health experts say that your protein should ideally come from wild caught fish, poultry, and legumes. Interestingly enough, plant sources of protein were linked to better cognitive function than animal protein sources. All of this is to say that tempeh is an incredible source of plant-based protein, delivering 20 grams in a three-ounce serving. It is also rich in iron, which helps to transport oxygen throughout the body, including the brain.
Broccoli contains an assortment of nutrients, but it is the vitamin K and plant compounds that interest researchers in regards to brain health. One cup of cooked broccoli delivers more than 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin helps to form sphingolipids, which are fats that densely populate brain cells. Older adults that consume more vitamin K have better overall cognitive function and memory. The anti-inflammatory benefits of the antioxidants may also protect against cognitive damage.
According to recent research, strawberries contain pelargonidin, a compound that is more abundant in strawberries than any other fruit. Pelargonidin may be linked to fewer neurofibrillary tau tangles in the brain. Why is this important? Well, abnormal changes in tau proteins in the brain are one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Pelargonidin exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that may decrease overall neuroinflammation. Keeping tau proteins from becoming inflamed may allow for easier transport of nutrients between brain nerve cells.
Popeye’s favorite green is an excellent choice to help keep your cognitive abilities strong as you age. The reason for this is because spinach contains carotenoid antioxidants, including lutein and beta-carotene. Both of these carotenoids may lower the odds of poor cognitive function in women as they age, according to a 2020 study. A separate research study found that middle-aged participants with higher levels of lutein had neural activity that was on par with younger adults. You need to regularly consume carotenoid-rich foods like spinach if you want to experience their full brain-boosting benefits, though. Eating them every once in a while isn’t going to do the trick.