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Eating certain types of food can help keep your brain functioning optimally and even help prevent diseases like dementia.
The Mediterranean diet is often recommended for boosting brain health since it centers on eating whole foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish.
Studies have shown that following this eating style can reduce high blood pressure which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
If you are looking to improve your brain health, below are 12 must-eat foods that provide essential nutrients that support your brain’s cognitive processes and help maintain its good health.
Leafy greens like spinach, collards, and kale are some of the best foods for brain health. These nutrient-rich plants provide essential vitamins such as beta-carotene, folic acid, lutein, and vitamin K to help cognitive performance.
Studies have even suggested that diets rich in plant-based foods can reduce age-related cognitive decline. For optimal brain health benefits, aim to consume 1/4 cup of leafy greens per day or 1.5 – 2 cups per week.
Nuts are widely known for their health benefits, providing the human body with important proteins and healthy fats. Of all different types of nuts, walnuts are prized for their rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
This powerful combination has been known to reduce mental decline and improve cognitive performance, as demonstrated by a 2021 study that found that adults who eat 15 to 30 grams of nuts daily have notably higher cognitive scores than those who ate less.
Coffee and tea
Coffee and tea provide more than just a morning energy jolt. Caffeine has been known to improve the brain’s ability to process information while coffee is loaded with antioxidants which may help improve overall brain health.
Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can work to reduce stress and anxiety levels; two important factors for healthy brain functioning. Generally, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (roughly 4 cups of coffee or black tea) is what is considered safe for most adults.
Did you know that tomatoes are excellent for your brain health? This is because they contain lycopene, a potent carotenoid that helps to protect against mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A single medium tomato contains around 3.2 milligrams of lycopene, however, if you want more you can find it in tomato sauces, pastes, and ketchup. To get the most benefit from lycopene intake it is recommended to eat between 9 and 21 milligrams per day.
Eating whole grains like oats, barley, and brown rice is a key part of any healthy diet. Not only do they help support your cardiovascular health, but they are also an excellent source of natural vitamin E.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps reduce free radicals and can protect your neurological health. For optimal health benefits, the recommended intake is three servings of whole grains daily- totaling at least 48 grams.
Broccoli is an important vegetable that should be replenished regularly for good brain health. It contains glucosinolates which, when in contact with water, produce isothiocyanates.
These metabolites have neuroprotective properties which help maintain strong mental function. Adults should aim to eat 1.5 to 2.5 grams of cruciferous veggies such as broccoli per week, according to USDA guidelines.
Salmon and tuna
Salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial to the brain. Research suggests that these fats may lower levels of beta-amyloid in the blood, a protein that forms clumps in the brain and is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
To get your recommended dose, aim for two servings per week of omega-3-rich fish such as salmon and tuna. Make sure to choose varieties low in mercury for maximum benefit.
Berries are abundant in flavonoids and thus, great foods for the brain. Not only do they brighten your plate with their vibrant colors, but they can also help improve your memory and reduce mental decline.
Research has shown that eating at least two handfuls of berries per week can slow down memory loss by up to 2.5 years! So, don’t forget to add these yummy fruits to your weekly meals for a happier and healthier life.
Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, flavonoids, and caffeine – all of which are great for brain health.
To reap the most benefits from dark chocolate, aim to snack on 30-60 grams of at least 70% dark a few times a week. Not only can it help improve your brain function but can also come with a delicious treat.
Seeds are a great snack that are packed with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E which has many brain advantages while pumpkin seeds have high levels of antioxidants as well as copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.
Eating 1/8 to 1/4 cup of mixed seeds three or four times a week can help reduce cognitive decline or risks associated with Alzheimer’s disease, depression and epilepsy. For a tasty treat, try adding chia or ground flaxseeds to your daily routine.
Eggs are the perfect choice for a nutritious and filling breakfast, providing a high-quality source of protein and essential B vitamins.
Eating one egg per day is usually considered safe and recommended by health experts as it can help prevent brain loss in older adults due to B6, B12, and B9 vitamins. However, your doctor may recommend different based on your personal health condition and cholesterol levels.
Turmeric, an essential part of curry powders, has been found to hold several benefits for brain health, such as protecting against Alzheimer’s and aiding in the growth of brain cells.
To ensure that you get the recommended daily intake of turmeric, it may be necessary to take a curcumin supplement; check with your doctor if this is the right option for you.
This information should not be interpreted as medical advice; always consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding any questions you may have about your health or medical condition.
This article was updated 9 months ago