Foods that Increase Brain Activity and Prevent Decline
“Smart foods,” they’re called – foods that enhance brain activity and that keep the brain healthy as the body ages. We now know, from research, that certain elements in some foods have a positive impact on the brain. While much of this testing has occurred with rats, the implications for human brains are certainly there. The elements that are now known to improve brain health and to help prevent brain health decline are Omega-3’s, glucose, blood supply, and anti-oxidants. In fact, the research shows that oxidants are more detrimental to the brain than to any other organ in the body. If you would like detailed information about these studies, there is a load of essays online that summarize them. Nevertheless, foods rich in these elements should be added to everyone’s diet right now, no matter what age you are.
Blueberries: Studies show that this superfood improves learning capacity and motor skills in animal studies. As well, they protect the brain from oxidants, and more recent studies indicate that there may be properties that retard dementia and Alzheimer’s. Recommended daily amount is 1 cup.
Wild Salmon: Omega-3 fatty acids are known to promote good brain function and to reduce or delay effects of aging. These are also found in sardines and herring, and the recommended amount is at least one service 2-3 times a week.
Nuts and Seeds: These foods are really high in vitamin E, a nutrient that is also known to retard the aging of the brain as we age. 1 ounce per day of most any type of nuts plus sunflower and sesame seeds is recommended. Vitamin E is also found in peanut butter if that is preferred.
Avocados: One of the best benefits of avocados is that they contribute to good blood flow. The brain, like any other organ, relies on a strong blood supply. This food also lowers blood pressure, a condition which, over time, is a factor in the decline of cognitive abilities. Recommended amount is ¼ - ½ of one avocado once a week. This food is very high in fat content and calories, so this is the reason for the lower recommended amount.
Whole Grains: Everyone should eat at least 3 servings a day of whole grain foods – oatmeal, whole grain cereals, and whole wheat or rye breads. First, these foods lower cholesterol, a leading cause of plaque buildup in the arteries. This buildup decreases blood supply to the brain, and can cause a stroke or heart attack. Both of these events disrupt the flow of blood to the brain. Whole grains also stimulate blood flow, so there is a double-plus to eating the recommended amount.
Beans: The brain relies on glucose, and it does not store this nutrient. So, it is important that a steady supply of glucose get to the brain so that it is maintained in a healthy condition. While beans do not of themselves have glucose in them, they do regulate the flow of glucose throughout the body and ensure that the brain gets an adequate supply. Everyone should eat ½ cup of beans every day.
Pomegranates and other bright/dark colored vegetables and fruits. Pomegranates are mentioned specifically because, of all fruits and vegetables, they have the highest amount of anti-oxidants. Other fruits and vegetables include broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, dark berries and grapes, dark lettuce, carrots, asparagus, and squash. Red wines are also full of antioxidants. 5 servings a day please.
Tea: If it is freshly brewed tea (no instant!), there are moderate amounts of caffeine which does enhance focus and memory. Tea, especially green tea, also contains anti-oxidants. 2-3 cups a day is ideal.
Dark Chocolate: Yes! This is a huge source of anti-oxidants, and it also have moderate levels of caffeine. A recommended daily amount is ½ - 1 ounce each day.
Hopefully, there are some foods on this list that you really like. If so, and there are others you just can’t abide, at least increase the amounts of those foods that you do like. Scientists have located a protein in the brain that is definitely linked to Alzheimer’s, so keeping that protein functioning properly is important. “Brain foods” will help!