We all know that eating the right foods (and the right amount) helps us with staying at a healthy weight, keeps our hearts healthy, and can even help us keep up our immunity and fight off illness.
But did you know that some foods can even help you maintain (and even improve) your brain health?
We’re not just talking about a morning cup of coffee to wake you up and make your brain a little less foggy. Some foods actually have properties in them that keep your brain healthy, which leads to better memory and cognizance.
What foods are good for the brain and why?
- Oily/fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, etc.) – Fish in this category contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for pretty much all your organs, but especially your brain. These fatty acids help build membranes around brain cells and can improve the actual structure of the neurons in your brain. Omega-3s improve mood, sharpen memory, and can protect the entire brain against cognitive decline.
If you are vegan but still want to get in some omega-3s, you can get them from nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, soybeans, and even peanut butter!
- Dark chocolate – Yep, that’s right. Chocolate can actually be good for you. (But make sure if you need to watch your sugar that you’re taking that into account, and discuss it with your doctor!) The reason dark chocolate is good for your brain (at least 70% cocoa bean) is because it contains cacao, which is full of flavonoids (an antioxidant that’s great for you). These antioxidants are good for your brain, and some studies show that they may even encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in the part of the brain that handles memory and learning.
- Berries (especially blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries) – These berries contain the same flavonoids as dark chocolate, but the ones in berries contain other properties that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. This means that the brain cells can communicate better with one another, and these flavonoids even increase plasticity in the brain, allowing it to form new connections! Studies have shown that berries from this list may even help reduce age-related neurodegenerative disease and cognitive decline.
- Oranges – The Vitamin C in oranges can help prevent mental decline (plus it helps your body stay healthy overall). One orange gives you the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C, and it can help fight off free radicals that actually damage your brain cells.
For other sources of Vitamin C, look to bell peppers, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries!
- Eggs – Eggs have a lot of benefits to them, especially when it comes to focusing on brain health. They contain vitamins B6, B12, folate, and choline, all of which help regulate mood, memory, and mental function. Many people are not eating many foods with folate and choline in them, and they are deficient in these without even knowing it (which can affect brain health). Folate deficiency is a common one seen in patients with dementia, and folic acid supplements are often prescribed to help minimize mental decline associated with the disease.
Of course, none of these foods will improve your memory overnight, but eating them regularly is healthy for your body overall (again, please talk to your doctor to make sure you can eat any or all of these foods), and the properties in them help the brain function better. Plus, most of them make great snacks!