If you take a moment to think about your diet, like many of us, you probably think about foods that are heart healthy, or that support your immune system. Or maybe you consider each food in terms of its fat content and whether it will cause you to lose or gain weight. But how often do you think about foods that support a healthy brain?
Foods that Support Brain Health
Our brains are just as, if not more, important as the rest of the body, but all too often we overlook this organ, assuming it will just keep going or that there’s nothing we can do to support it. But we can eat for brain health, which can help to improve cognitive function (a term to describe learning, thinking, reasoning, problem solving and memory) and protect against dementia and other degenerative brain conditions.
Eating a diet rich in brain supporting foods will give us a better chance of having a healthy brain well into old age. Here’s how…
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Perhaps surprisingly, dietary fats play a large role in brain health. But not just any fats – saturated fats, that can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol are a big no-no for all areas of our health including that of our brains, so fried foods, ready meals, processed meats, pies, cakes, biscuits and pastries are out.
The good fats in question are unsaturated fats called fatty acids, in particular omega 3 fatty acids. These kind of fats are found in abundance in oily fish such as salmon, trout and herring, plus walnuts and flaxseeds (sometimes also called linseeds). Aim to eat oily fish two or three times a week, or three walnut halves a day. Ground flaxseed is tasteless and can be sprinkled onto foods or added to smoothies.
The Golden Spice
Turmeric, the spice that gives curries their golden yellow colour, contains an active ingredient called curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that has repeatedly shown positive results in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia such as vascular dementia (and other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease) are thought to be caused by long term, chronic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric are thought to help neutralise damaging, chronic, inflammation.
Blueberries as a Superfood
Blueberries are often touted as superfood, and they quite rightly get this crown. They’re packed with anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Surprising Brain Boosting Foods
Red wine and dark chocolate – not what you’d expect in this list of foods that support a healthy brain. But both, in moderation, can help to support brain function as they’re rich in antioxidants. Red wine contains resveratrol and dark chocolate contains flavonoids, both types of antioxidant that help to reduce oxidative stress, which is linked with degenerative brain conditions including Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee also has a protective effect on the brain, also due to its high antioxidant content.
How many brain healthy foods will you include in your weekly meals when you’re next menu planning?
Written by Bev Walton, BSc Nutritional Science
I achieved a First-Class Honours degree in BSc Nutritional Science, Nutrition Sciences from the University of Reading and now have over 35 years experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for magazines and websites as well as ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I’m also a proud member of the Guild of Food writers.