Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain
Add these 'superfoods' to your daily diet, and you will increase your odds of maintaining a healthy brain for the rest of your life.
There's no denying that as we age chronologically, our body ages right along
with us. But research is showing that you can increase your chances of
maintaining a healthy brain well into your old age if you add these
"smart" foods to your daily eating regimen.
Blueberries. "Brainberries" is what Steven Pratt,
MD, author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your
Life, calls these tasty fruits. Pratt, who is also on staff at Scripps
Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., says that in animal studies researchers
have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and
may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's disease
or dementia. Studies have also
shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning
capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them
mentally equivalent to much younger rats. Ann Kulze, MD, author of Dr.
Ann's 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss & Lifelong
Vitality, recommends adding at least 1 cup of blueberries a day in any
form -- fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried.
Wild salmon. Deep-water fish, such as salmon, are rich in
omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function, says
Kulze. Both she and Pratt recommend wild salmon for its "cleanliness"
and the fact that it is in plentiful supply. Omega-3s also contain
anti-inflammatory substances. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of
omega-3s are sardines and herring, says Kulze; she recommends a 4-ounce
serving, two to three times a week.
Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin
E, says Pratt, explaining that higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less
cognitive decline as you get older. Add an ounce a day of walnuts, hazelnuts,
Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame
seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond
butter, and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn't matter, although if you're on a
sodium-restricted diet, buy unsalted nuts.
Avocados. Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in
promoting brain health, says Pratt. "I don't think the avocado gets its
due," agrees Kulze. True, the avocado is a fatty fruit, but, says Kulze,
it's a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. "And
healthy blood flow means a healthy brain," she says. Avocados also lower
blood pressure, says Pratt, and as hypertension is a
risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, a lower blood pressure
should promote brain health. Avocados are high in calories, however, so Kulze
suggests adding just 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal as a side
Whole grains. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain
breads, and brown rice can reduce the risk for heart
disease. "Every organ in the body is dependent on blood
flow," says Pratt. "If you promote cardiovascular health, you're
promoting good flow to the organ system, which includes the brain." While
wheat germ is not technically a whole grain, it also goes on Kulze's
"superfoods" list because in addition to fiber, it has vitamin E and
some omega-3s. Kulze suggests 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal, 1 slice of bread
two-thee times day, or 2 tablespoons of wheat germ a day.