According to recent research there are key, diet-based strategies to help keep your brain sharp as we age. Scientific evidence suggests that what you eat plays an important role in learning and memory as you age. There are 5 steps you can take to protect your brain.
- Pack in phytonutrients. Whole, plant based foods are rich in phytonutrients called flavonoids, which are especially beneficial to brain health. Flavonoids not only guard nerve cells against injury from environmental toxins and inflammation, but they promote memory and learning. They also increase blood supply to the brain, which is very important for optimal brain function.
- Choose unrefined carbs. The hipppocampus of the brain is very important in learning and memory and is very susceptible to disruption by dietary factors, including refined sugars. Pass up sugary, processed foods and refined bread products. Instead load up on vegetables and fruits, legumes and whole grains.
- Be smart about fats. Seafood, such as salmon and tuna, supply the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA which provide building materials for the brain. The plant form of omega-3s, ALA, found in walnuts and flaxseed, also promotes brain health. Be aware that high intake of saturated fat and trans fat are linked with greater mental decline as we age.
- Minimize AGEs. Basically, we need to reduce intake of AGEs by cutting back on fried, grilled and roasted meats, as well as highly processed foods and high-fat animal based foods. AGEs can deposit in the brain and are linked to faster memory decline and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to many conditions including increased risk of declining brain function with age. Mid-life obesity increases the risk of dementia later in life. Remember a key component of weight control is physical activity, which includes weight training and cardio fitness training.
Brain Building Foods
Apples: Prevents age related decline in a key nerve messenger
Cocoa: Improves memory in older adults
Eggs: Used to make a nerve messenger needed for memory
Figs: Supports learning and memory in Alzheimer’s disease
Green Tea: Improves test scores
Pomegranate: Slows Alzheimer’s disease in an animal model
Salmon: Reduces risk of mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease
Strawberries/Blueberries: Slows mental aging by up to 2.5 years
Walnuts: Boosts true/false test reasoning; decreases Alzheimer’s deficits
Adapted from Environmental Nutrition Newsletter, June 2015.