Your belly can keep your brain sharp. That’s because diet matters when it comes to brain health.
Of course, lots of factors affect what happens to your noodle, from genetics to your environment. But it won’t hurt to make sure you’re eating at least a few brain-boosting foods.
Eggs have vitamin B12. Studies show that if you don’t have enough B12 your cognitive function, including memory loss, could slide.
It’s tough to get the micronutrient through plant-based foods, so sunny-side-up eggs are a super option – B12 is in the yolk. The yolk has other good stuff too, including vitamin B6 – also good for your brain and tied to memory.
Red and purple berries are rich in flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are awesome because they keep free radicals in check. Otherwise free radicals damage neurons, which is bad news for your brain.
Blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries and the like also have anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation isn’t good for your brain (or really any part of your body).
All fish are not created equally when it comes to your brain.
“Omega-3 fatty acid rich fish are important for brain development and function,” says Laurie Mitchell, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, who oversees Unum’s corporate wellness programs.
Cold water fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring are standouts, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fish that are less fatty, such as bass and cod, don’t have as much omega-3 content.
Some studies show that not having enough omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (linolenic acid, EPA and DHA) could be linked to cognitive decline or dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, as a person ages, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
A simple, delicious and energy-efficient way to get your omega-3 dose is by preparing salmon in a toaster oven. Whole Foods sells frozen 2-pound bags of fillets of wild-caught sockeye salmon, which makes stocking the good stuff convenient.
2 salmon fillets
Coat an ovenproof dish with canola oil. Place frozen fillets skin-side down in dish. Squeeze lime over fillets. Salt to taste. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, spooning lime sauce over fillets every 10 minutes. If you prefer your fish crispy, broil for the final few minutes. Once the fish is cooked, turn off oven, sprinkle capers over fish, and leave dish in oven for a few minutes.
If you’re not a fish fan, eat nuts – particularly walnuts – and flaxseeds (you’ll digest them best when they’ve been ground up before you down them) or flax oil.
All in one
The all-around best way to help your brain is to follow a Mediterranean diet.
Besides being one of the healthiest eating lifestyles (and many would say a tasty one), studies suggest it may be able to reduce the risk of dementia.
That’s likely because a Mediterranean diet – and by diet we don’t mean depriving yourself – focuses on plant-based foods, like whole grains, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables. All those food types nourish your brain (we hit on two here: nuts and berries).
The Mediterranean diet also includes fish (hit on that as well) and chicken. And it replaces butter with canola oil and olive oil, which has oleic acid and antioxidants – good for your brain too.
Connect with journalist and wellness writer Mitra Malek at www.mitramalek.com.