FOOD & DINING
The brain degenerates with age and with all the stressors we are experiencing, it’s easy for your mind to lose focus and experience 'brain fog'. According to WHO reports Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, with nearly 60% living in low- and middle-income countries. Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases.
No single brain food or magic pill can ensure a sharp brain as you age. Nutritionists emphasise that the most important strategy is to follow a healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Try to get protein from plant sources and fish and choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, rather than saturated fats. That said, certain foods are particularly rich in healthy components like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, which are known to support brain health and often referred to as brain foods. Incorporating many of these foods into a healthy diet on a regular basis can improve the health of your brain, which could translate into better mental function. Research shows that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels, including the following:
1. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a popular nutritional healthy fat. The saturated fat in coconut oil is a plant-based and has lauric acid, which is responsible for raising the good HDL cholesterol in the body. (HDL) cholesterol is known as the good cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Coconut oil has been shown to improve cognitive abilities in Alzheimer’s patients. Studies found that coconut oil helped Alzheimer’s patients improve specific cognitive abilities related to language and orientation. If coconut oil can improve the brain of Alzheimer’s patients who already have marked signs of brain degeneration, imagine what it can do for a healthy brain with no signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or age-related memory loss! It’s a great way to protect the brain from future degeneration. Coconut oil solidifies at room temperature. Melting it before use or using it in cooking preparations is best. You can stir it into your oatmeal, coffee, or use it as a cooking oil.
Rosemary is commonly used in cooking and great medicinal properties. Carnosic acid and carsonal are compounds found in Rosemary that functions as an antioxidant that helps prevent free radicals. These two antioxidants work as reduce oxidation to lipids, which means the fat cells won’t oxidize and change negatively. The brain is mostly fat, so when carnosic acid and carnosol prevent the oxidation of fats, it protects the brain from neurodegeneration. When the brain stays healthy, the memory stays intact. Steeping rosemary in hot water for rosemary tea is a great way to start incorporating it into your diet.
Turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Indian cooking, Ayurvedic medicine, Indian self-care regimes and Yoga practice . Turmeric is a bright yellow-orange spice and comes from the turmeric root. The active ingredient in turmeric, known as curcumin, has many protective properties. It acts as a powerful antioxidant to fight free radicals that lead to oxidative damage in the brain.
Curcumin also reduces inflammation in the brain. Since Alzheimer’s stems from inflammation, the more you can fight inflammation, the healthier your memory and brain will be long-term. Amyloid plaque in the brain is another cause of memory issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. With curcumin fighting against amyloid plaque, the brain stays clear. The antioxidant, natural anti-inflammatory, and anti-amyloid properties of curcumin makes turmeric a great spice to keep the brain healthy and boost memory. Turmeric spice is commonly used in Indian cooking. Research shows that consuming turmeric with black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin by 2,000 percent! Turmeric lattes are becoming increasingly popular, and you can find the spice readily available in any grocery store.
Walnuts are packed with phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But what makes walnuts super beneficial for memory and brain health, is that they improve the signalling between your brain’s neurons, which are responsible for every thought and motion you make. If the signalling between your neurons is faulty, then motor skills are lost and memory declines—which are both symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Walnuts also increase neurogenesis, which means that healthy tissues in the brain are formed. When new tissues are formed, it will prevent degeneration of the brain that leads to memory loss. Walnut is a great snack on its own any time of the day. You can also use walnuts in your smoothie or make a homemade trail mix.
5. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil is loaded with monounsaturated fat and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for brain health. A study was done with participants from Barcelona, Spain, who were assigned a Mediterranean diet that was supplemented with olive oil. This study showed that the participants experienced improved cognitive function.
Olive oil is great in salad, drizzled over a plate of fresh pasta or a teaspoon in the morning. The more olive oil you can get into your daily diet, the better!
6. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. The greener the vegetable leaf is, the better. Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline. They also contain folic acid, which improves your mental clarity.9
For maximum benefit Green Leafy vegetables are great in smoothies and salads.
Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their brilliant hues, also help improve memory, research shows. In a 2012 study published in Annals of Neurology, researchers at Harvard's Brigham and Women's Hospital found that women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week delayed memory decline by up to two-and-a-half years.
Berries are great in smoothies, breakfast bowls or as a snack in between meals.
8. Fatty fish.
Fatty fish are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid—the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, but choose varieties that are low in mercury, such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kipper. If you not a fan of fish you can choose terrestrial omega-3 sources such as flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
Salmon can be great eaten raw in sushi or lightly pan fried with coconut or olive oil.
9. Green Tea
Green tea does more than just keep you alert, it may also help boost brain function. The two key active ingredients in green tea that boost brain function are caffeine and l’theanine.
Caffeine, is a known stimulant. Green Tea doesn’t contain as much as coffee, but enough to produce a response without causing the jittery effects associated with taking in too much caffeine. The active ingredient l’theanine, has shown to increase alpha-wave activity, which increases tranquility and releases caffeine more slowly. The two ingredients combine to produce a better ability to focus attention, with improvement of both speed and accuracy.
Green tea is great steeped in hot water to start incorporating it into your diet.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the LivLush Global. No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.