As I think about my family history, there's a pattern of living long and being “sharp as a tack” as the saying goes. But why is that? Are there reasons that help people not only live longer lives but keep their minds sharp, too? While factors like exercising and reading help us flex our mental muscles, the one other thing that can keep our brain in shape is our diet. So, is there such a thing as “brain” food? In short, there's no single magical food to ensure a sharp brain as we age. However, research has shown that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels.
Nutritionists emphasize that the most important thing you can do is follow a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. As for protein, try to get most of it from plant-based sources and fish. Always choose healthy fats when cooking such as olive or canola oils above saturated fats such as butter. Incorporating leafy greens like spinach, collards, broccoli, and kale are important sources of vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene all rich brain-healthy nutrients. But don’t worry, there's more to life—and your plate—than leafy greens!
Yes, fatty! While we generally say to stay away from fat, fatty fishes are an abundant source of the ever so important omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, and choose varieties such as salmon, cod, canned light tuna, and pollack. If you're not a fan of fish, ask your physician about taking an omega-3 supplement or choose other sources of omega-3’s such as flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
High in antioxidants, berries can help your body combat inflammation, which may help you avoid longer-term problems with memory function. In 2012, a 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. So, go ahead and add those berries to your oatmeal, yogurt, or even a salad. Whip up a quick smoothie or eat them on their own.
Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats in general, but walnuts specifically might help to improve memory. Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which may help lower blood pressure and protects arteries. That's good for both the heart and brain!
There’s no need to think about which part of your body you're keeping healthy when you eat. If you feed your body a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, it'll take care of you. A healthy diet is important for all aspects of our life and can help us to age gracefully. Please be sure to consult your physician or nutrition professional to be sure you are eating a diet that suits your individual needs.