Most people would agree that our brains (and our souls) form the very essence of who we are. With brain function naturally declining with age and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease increasing, any steps that can be taken to protect the brain from the ravages of ageing are important.
One of the best ways to protect brain function is to provide this important organ with the nutrients it needs to protect itself against free radical damage.
Need some guidance? Here are the best foods for healthy brain function.
Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that appear to protect the brain against oxidative damage. A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience showed that mice with a genetic predisposition toward Alzheimer’s disease experienced less loss of brain function when fed a diet supplemented with blueberry extract than did mice given regular food. The researchers observed that the mice given blueberry extract had higher levels of enzymes known as kinases which appear to play an important role in brain function and memory.
If you don’t like the taste of blueberries, there are companies that sell freeze dried blueberries ground into a powder form that can be added to cereals and smoothies.
Walnuts are a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids which help to reduce free radical formation and reduce inflammation which can have harmful effects on brain function. Walnut extract is even being investigated as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Besides potentially improving brain function, walnuts have other beneficial health properties including reducing the risk of heart disease.
How much do you need to get these benefits? Most experts recommend around an 28g each day.
Not only has chocolate been shown to improve the mood of people suffering from depression, it also helps to improve brain function in the short term. In one study, subjects who consumed dark chocolate scored better on tests of cognitive performance than those who avoided the dark stuff. Although it’s unclear what component of dark chocolate increases brain function, researchers believe it’s the flavonoids.
Although if you drink too much of it your brain may not function well in the short term, when consumed in lower quantities red wine is a brain friendly food. The active ingredient appears to be a compound known as resveratrol found in red grape skins. One study showed that mice given red wine extract developed forty percent less brain damage from stroke than mice who didn’t receive this supplement.
How much do you need? Experts recommend one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, or less. Just four to seven glasses of wine per week can lower your risk for prostate cancer too, according to the Harvard Medical School.
Resveratrol is also found in blueberries, grapes, peanuts, cranberries and raspberries.
High in vitamin K, broccoli is known to enhance brain power and improve cognitive function. Researchers at the Dundee University in Scotland found that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, can help keep the brain sharp and fight the deterioration of brain cells that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
A Harvard University study showed American men who took 50mg of the antioxidant beta-carotene every other day for 15 years delayed cognitive ageing.
Not a pill popper? Five servings of carrots a week reduce the risk of stroke by 68 percent.
Fatty fish is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids. In one study, elderly people who ate fish at least once a week slowed cognitive decline about 10 percent compared to those who didn’t chow down on fish, and the fish-eaters also performed better on tests of memory and mental sharpness.
Researchers in Japan found drinking a cup a day cuts your risk of age-related cognitive decline by 37 percent compared to those who consume less. Let it steep for at least three minutes for more brain benefits. The helpful compounds, polyphenols, are also found in olive oil, chocolate and both beer and wine.
Just a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Pumpkin seeds also contain omega 3 and a high amount of magnesium, which has a calming effect on the brain.
Raisins are good for your brain because they are an excellent source of boron, a trace element that improves hand-eye coordination, attention and memory.
Japanese scientists found that a diet supplemented with rosemary extract resulted in less brain damage thanks to the herb’s ability to combat free radicals, preventing the onset of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Interestingly, cooking and processing tomatoes increases the bioavailability of lycopene by releasing it from the vegetable fiber. Lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes.
Adding these brain friendly foods to your diet may be a simple and safe way to boost your brain function. How can you go wrong with these healthy foods?