Three best foods boosting brain health

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Three best foods boosting brain health

When it comes to brain health, never take it for granted.  Keeping our brain sharp and functioning at its optimal best is what each of us wants throughout our lives.  There are several things we can do to nurture and preserve brain cognition as long as we can – keeping physically active, participating in lifelong learning, and having an active social life.

But the best idea for boosting memory and brain function is to choose foods that encourage good blood flow to the brain – the same types that you need to eat to nourish and protect your heart.  What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

That’s why the following three foods are perfect for providing that extra boost of brain power to possibly lower our risk for Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia:

1.  Berries

Berries of all kinds – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries – are all good for boosting brain health.  Berries, especially blueberries, are a rich source of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid found naturally in foods.  Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring. 

Animal studies have been the main source showing evidence for berries beneficial effect on brain functioning.  But that is changing.  In the past few years, data from human studies are coming in showing promise of what berries can do for our brains.

So far berries have been found to show improvements in memory and attention-based tasks as well as increased blood flow to key areas of the brain.  Berries have also been found to help fight the natural decline in brain function that comes with aging.  Studies in animals have shown berries abilities to increase the number of neurons made in the brain with improvements in brain signaling and the potential of neurotransmitters. 

Another area berries effect brain health is by protecting the brain from oxidative stress which has been shown to be a major contributor to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease. 

The key to reaping the rewards of berries is to eat them regularly.  Enjoy a handful of berries – fresh, frozen, or dried - every day as a snack, mixed into cereal or baked into an antioxidant-rich dessert. 

2.  Fatty fish

“Catching” the right seafood is learning how to hook the right type. And in the case of staying mentally sharp, fatty fish is the way to go. Why? Because fatty fish, which include anchovies, salmon, bluefin tuna, Pacific halibut, sardines, rainbow trout, herring, and Atlantic mackerel, are each rich in the all-important brain food of omega-3 fatty acids.  In particular, each contains varying amounts of a certain type of omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which may help improve memory in healthy adults. 

Besides being a good source of omega-3’s, fatty fish are also beneficial to the brain for other reasons.  Fish contain various antioxidants and minerals such as selenium that also contribute to brain benefits. 

The method of cooking fish is critical to maintain a fish’s health benefits from sea to plate.  For ultimate flavor and nutrition, it’s best to grill, bake, or broil fish to preserve its healthy component – frying fish does your brain no good at all.  Enjoy at least two fish meals a week and for anyone who does not like fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement after discussing it with your doctor.

3.   Walnuts

Well-known for having a positive impact on heart health, walnuts also may improve cognitive function.  Out of all nuts nature provides, walnuts are the top nut for brain health.  They have a significantly high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid required by the human body.  ALA has been shown to protect brain health in newborns, improve cognitive performance in adults, and prevent or reduce age-related cognitive decline. 

Research on the long-term intake of nuts including walnuts, has shown that women age 70 or older with a higher long-term total nut intake including walnuts, had better than average cognitive skills.  Because the study population was with older women, additional research is required before generalizing to a larger population. 

Just ¼ cup of walnuts provides nearly 2.5 grams of ALA. Every day, work in walnuts by snacking on a handful to satisfy midday hunger, add them to oatmeal or a salad or mix them into a vegetable stir-fry.