There are many reasons to make sure we are eating a highly varied diet. All whole foods offer a range of dynamic nutrition that our bodies crave and need to operate optimally. Variation in our diets feeds our microbiome for ideal digestion, and feeds our skin for a healthy glow, but there are also foods we need to be aware of in our diets to maintain proper brain health for development and maintenance as we age. Here are some of the best foods to keep our minds as flexible and resilient as the rest of our bodies.
Fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and trout, are super-abundant in omega-3s. Omega-3s (not all omegas, important to note) are healthy unsaturated fats that studies show can lower blood levels of beta-amyloid—a protein that can clump together in the brain and is considered to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Making sure you consume enough foods with omega-3s is an excellent way to practice healthy aging and disease prevention.
Deeply pigmented berries like blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries contain anthocyanins, bio-active plant compounds that are highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Studies show that the compounds in berries can prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases, and improve motor and cognitive functions. All that packed into a tiny, juicy, delicious package? That’s a helluva deal, thanks nature!
Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which can increase brain function. It does this by boosting Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, a type of growth hormone that lives just in the brain. Low levels of BDNF are linked to depression and Alzheimers, so raising these levels can actually help neurons multiply and fire off new connections. More than just preventing these neurological disorders, it can also reverse the symptoms of them. That’s powerful stuff.
Nuts, like walnuts and almonds, contain high levels of the antioxidant vitamin E, and are shown to improve cognition, i.e., our thinking power and ability to learn. Seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, also contain high levels of antioxidants, but they are packed with iron, magnesium, and copper, all trace minerals that control nerve signals, prevent neurological diseases and depression, and improve clear thinking.
Oysters have been referred to as nature’s highest source of zinc, a trace mineral that is vital for nerve signaling. Deficiencies in zinc have been linked to Alzheimers, dementia, and mood disorders like depression. Plus, oysters are delicious, and they are up for debate in the vegan community because they do not have a nervous system.
Kale, spinach, arugula, and broccoli are all rich sources of vitamin E and K, beta carotene and folate, nutrients that have been shown to improve memory and prevent or delay cognitive decline as we age.