Top 7 foods to keep your brain young
Want to know how to keep up with your grandkids by eating certain foods for a healthy brain and body? These foods can actually improve mental cognition and help you feel sharper. As a bonus, grandparents who make fitness a family value set their grandkids on the path toward a lifetime of healthful eating.
#1: Fatty fish
Eat fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, halibut, trout, herring, cod or whitefish. The omega-3 essential fatty acid DHA found in fatty fish is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the brain and is important for brain development and function. Many of the vitamins you need are fat-soluble. If you don’t have healthy fat in your diet, vitamins such as A, E, D, and K can’t easily be absorbed into your system. A recent study proved that older adults who eat fatty fish can slow their cognitive decline by 10 percent per year. [i]
#2: Egg yolks
Eggs yolks are good for your brain. Egg yolks contain choline, an essential nutrient that may guard the brain against senility. Choline is a chemical building block of every cell. Egg yolks are among the richest natural sources of choline. You can get choline from skim milk if you are allergic to eggs or concerned about cholesterol.
If you love spicy food, load up on curry. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that curcumin, a chemical found in curry and turmeric, may help the immune system clear amyloid-beta from brain tissue; amyloid-beta is the substance that forms plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.[ii]
Berries offer many antioxidant, vitamin and brain benefits. A 2005 study found that blueberries could reverse age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction as well as cognitive and motor deficits. And short-term blueberry supplementation was found to increase hippocampal plasticity [iii]. Strawberries are high in vitamin C and help to control inflammation in the brain and maintain memory. One study found that strawberries helped reverse age-related degeneration of the brain [iv].Black currents are also a good source of vitamin C and can give you a healthy dose of gammalineolic acid. Black currents act as a natural antidepressant and help protect brain cells against stress. Boysenberries are excellent sources of anthocyanins and polyphenolics, which have been found in studies to protect the aging brain from damage [v]. Cranberries also have rich antioxidant content, and have been linked to reducing brain cell damage after a stroke. Cranberries may also help fight cancer and heart disease.
#5: Grape juice
Grape juice can help prevent the decline of short-term memory and can enhance your brain’s overall cognitive function as well as increase dopamine production. Grapes contain resveratrol, also found in red wine. Resveratrol helps reduce the level of plaque that builds up within the brain, disrupting memory. This plaque can be responsible for disrupting memory and bringing on Alzheimer’s. [vi]
Studies have shown that the antioxidant concentration in a cup of hot cocoa is higher than that found in either red wine or green tea. The cacao bean contains theobromine. Use minimally processed cocoa to ensure the health properties are retained or eat dark chocolate bars with at least 75 percent cacao content. A U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored study looked at 12 people aged 25 to 35 who ate 100 grams of dark chocolate, 100 grams of dark chocolate along with a glass of milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate. Just 60 minutes later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most antioxidants in their system, including epicatechin — a polyphenol that improves blood flow. [vii]
The coffee bean is rich in antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Coffee drinking was studied in a group of 676 healthy elderly men from Finland, Italy and the Netherlands. In this study, which spanned a 10-year period, the researchers discovered that the more coffee a participant drank, the less cognitive decline occurred. Those who drank three cups of coffee a day showed 4.3 times less cognitive decline than those who consumed no coffee. [viii]
If you want optimum brain health, eat these healthful foods in moderation as part of a nutritious diet. Wise food choices, along with other positive lifestyle choices such as physical exercise, will aid in your overall well-being.
Margaret E. Staab is a freelance writer living in Wyoming with her counselor husband. Her short fiction, articles and poems have appeared or been accepted for publication in You&Me America’s Medical Magazine, Unsent Letters anthology print edition, Wyoming Voices Anthology, Our Children, and Iliad Press, among others. She is a member of the International Travel Writers & Photographers Alliance and of Wyo Writers and a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature.
[i] Morris M, et al. Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study. Arch Neurol. Dec. 2005; 62(12): 1,849-53.
[ii] Wu A, et al. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Exp. Neurol. Feb. 2006; 197(2): 309-17.
[iii] Lau F, et al. The beneficial effects of fruit polyphenols on brain aging. Neurobiology of Aging. Dec. 2005; 26(1): 128-32.
[iv] Bickford P, et al. Antioxidant-rich diets improve cerebellar physiology and motor learning in aged rats. Brain Res. June 2, 2000; 866(1-2): 211-7.
[v] Lau F, et al. The beneficial effects of fruit polyphenols on brain aging. Neurobiology of Aging. Dec. 2005; 26(1): 128-32.
[vi] Marambaud P, et al. Resveratrol promotes clearance of Alzheimer’s disease amyloid-beta peptides. J. Biol. Chem. Nov. 11, 2005; 280(45): 37,377-82.
[vii] Serafini M. Plasma antioxidants from chocolate. Nature. Aug. 28, 2003; 424: 1,013.
[viii] van Gelder B, et al. Coffee consumption is inversely associated with cognitive decline in elderly European men: the FINE Study. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. Feb. 2007; 61(2): 226-32.