Your brain deserves all the love and attention you give the rest of your body, if not more! Although most people agree that we shouldn’t see much cognitive decline before our late sixties and early seventies, it’s important that we start caring for our brain health now.
We can do that in a number of ways, like exercising regularly, reducing stress where we can, keeping ourselves mentally stimulated, and eating brain-healthy foods.
Foods that are healthy for our brains are the ones that work to keep our hearts and blood vessels healthy as well, while also protecting us from chronic illness. So when it comes time to choose the best brain foods, how do we know what to pick?
We talked with Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club to find out which popular foods are the best to eat for our brain health, and the answers may surprise you! And for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now!
“Regular blueberry and wild blueberry consumption throughout all stages of life supports our brains in various ways,” says Pincus, “and studies show that there are brain-boosting benefits tied specifically to conditions most commonly found in older people.”
According to Pincus and various research studies, blueberries have been found to help lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, slow down the rate of cognitive decline, improve neural activation, and enhance memory performance.
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Eggs can do wonders for our brain health, specifically because of two nutrients found in them: choline and lutein. According to Pincus, “Choline is an essential nutrient critical for fetal brain development and brain function, and is not found in high quantities in many foods typically consumed by Americans.”
The good news, says Pincus, is that “eggs have one of the highest amounts of choline of any food.” And lutein, another important nutrient found in eggs, can also help with our cognitive function. “Lutein has long been associated with eye health, and emerging research shows lutein may also play a role in our cognition,” says Pincus. All the more reason to bring on the pesto eggs!
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The DASH and Mediterranean diets, as well as the MIND diet that combines these two, have all been proven to be amazing for our brain health.
“A study showed that these dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-y period,” says Pincus.
Whole grains and nuts are foods that play a large role in the success of these diets. According to Pincus, these foods, which are a recommended daily part of the DASH, MIND, and Mediterranean diets, “are positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods.”
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Eating fish is an incredible way to care for your brain. “As a source of the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are a major building block of the brain,” says Pincus, “long-term consumption of adequate DHA is linked to improved memory, improved learning ability and reduced rates of cognitive decline.”
When it comes to choosing the best fish for your brain, a safe bet is to go for a “fatty” fish. “The highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids are found in cold-water fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring, tuna, cod, mackerel, halibut, and shark,” says Pincus.
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