Food  for thought: 5 Brain-boosting foods

As we age, every part of our body does, too — including our brain. While mental decline is common as we age, there are steps you can take to limit the effects and protect your brain. Including certain foods in your diet can help the cause.

Cognitive impairment and memory loss do not have to be inevitable parts of aging. Living a healthy lifestyle — by regularly exercising, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and staying mentally active — isn’t just good for the body. It’s also good for the mind.

A few easy tweaks in what you eat can play a big role in protecting your brain health. Read on for a look at five foods that can help boost your brainpower.

  • Fatty fish. Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet, which has long been associated with positive effects on heart health. But these fish, which include salmon, herring, lake trout, albacore tuna and sardines, also have positive effects on the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids affect the brain in multiple ways. They stimulate the production of chemicals in the brain associated with mood and they also boost learning and memory.

For best results, aim to include at least two servings of fatty fish in your diet each week. Avoid varieties that are high in mercury.

  • Blueberries. These delicious berries are high in antioxidants, which have a stress-reducing effect on the cells of the brain. In addition, some studies have found that blueberries may help reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Other studies have found that blueberries or blueberry juice are associated with better learning and memory.
  • Whole grains. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the brain, and our bodies get glucose through carbohydrates — those delicious foods often known as carbs. But the type of carbohydrate is very important. Simple carbs, like those found in white flour, create spikes in blood glucose that have negative effects on the brain. On the other hand, complex carbs, like those found in whole grains, keep our bodies full longer and fuel the brain. Look for products that say “whole grain” on the label.
  • Leafy greens. Popeye knew what he was talking about when he advocated for spinach. Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach, are packed with vitamins C and E, which have both been shown to help improve cognition.

These veggies, which include romaine lettuce, greens, and broccoli, are also high in folic acid and B-vitamins.

  • Dark chocolate. We saved the best for last! Dark chocolate has a number of brain-enhancing benefits, including antioxidants and natural stimulants that enhance concentration.

It’s also been shown to stimulate the production of endorphins in the brain, which helps improve mood.

Choose chocolate that contains as high a percentage of cocoa as palatable. If you can choose a chocolate bar or chocolate treat that also contains walnuts, even better! Several studies have found that walnuts are associated with improved learning and memory.

Need guidance about your diet or another aspect of your health? Find a physician here.