You’ve heard of them before. They’ve been described as super foods, heart healthy foods and brain foods. According to well-regarded studies, adding healthy foods to your diet can increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain. Popular lists of healthy brain foods vary in length, but there are certain foods that appear on most of them. We’ve compiled a list of the most touted foods here (and the studies related to them) for you to use.
Leafy green vegetables
Rush University Medical Center and Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that people who ate more green leafy vegetables—as part of the MIND diet—had a markedly lower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who ate the least. The MIND diet involves eating “brain-healthy” foods, with particular emphasis on eating berries, such as blueberries, and green leafy vegetables, like spinach.
A study published in the Annals of Neurology confirmed that women who ate berries at least once a week were able to slow down their cognitive decline by about 1.5 to 2.5 years. For blueberries, the effect started with about half a cup of berries each week; for strawberries, it took about a cup of the fruit per week.
Another study published in the Annals of Neurology found that saturated fats—found in red meat and full-fat dairy products—cause the brain to age more rapidly than other kinds of fat. Olive oil, avocado and other monounsaturated fats appear to slow brain aging.
Walnuts are branded as a “super food” because they are high in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids. A study presented in 2010 at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease reported that mice with Alzheimer’s demonstrated improved learning, memory and motor coordination after being fed walnuts.
A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are key for brain health. According to University of Pittsburgh research, adults under age 25 who increased their omega-3 intake over six months improved their scores on tests measuring working memory.
Rebecca Katz, MS, is the author of a new science-based recipe book, The Healthy Mind Cookbook. According to Katz, lentils are full of brain-friendly B vitamin folate, which helps keep your mind sharp as you age, thiamin and vitamin B6, which give you more focus and energy, iron, which is important for cognitive functioning in women during childbearing years, and zinc, which is said to be a memory booster.
Everything in moderation
A study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia analyzed the diets of more than 2,200 adults and found that eating just some good-for-you foods is better than none at all and may help reduce the risk of dementia. People who mostly consumed an unhealthy diet had about twice as much cognitive decline as those whose diets included a mix of healthy and less healthy items over time.
According to study after study, what we eat does affect our brain health. Adding some of the items on our brain food list to your diet could help you maintain a healthier body and a healthier brain.
Another brainy idea
When it comes to maintaining your brain and body health, signing up for CarePlus is a great idea. CarePlus is a free concierge healthcare service specifically created to make staying healthy easier. CarePlus provides you with a concierge team that can:
- find the right doctor for you
- get you the appointments you need quickly
- get you faster access to your medical information—like lab results
- obtain referrals to specialists and pre-authorizations
- work with your insurer to help answer your insurance questions