As we get older it seems like those little “oops, I forgot” moments start to occur a little more frequently than they used to. Often, we laugh it off and move on like it’s no big deal, but unfortunately, without understanding why these moments are happening and how to deal with the underlying cause, these little moments have the potential to progress into much more serious issues. As we age, our body needs more help to perform its normal functions since it cannot keep up on its own. Decades of exposure to environmental stresses, dietary and lifestyle choices, simple aging, and other factors can take their toll on our bodies. The toll on our bodies becomes much more noticeable and prevalent with time, and most commonly directs most of its damage onto our most precious organ, the brain.
Thankfully scientific research of age-related diseases, particularly the brain, has been able to determine certain factors that increase a person’s risk of developing these as well as discovered many natural sources of nutrients that can help lower a person’s risk and help slow the progression in older adults diagnosed with one of these dementia-causing diseases. There are many foods and supplements that are known to boost memory and brain health in adults. It seems like as we get older, doctors are always telling us to eat a diet that is “heart-healthy” to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases, but that low sodium and low saturated fat diet is also beneficial to your brain’s health. The brain is filled with blood vessels to nourish brain cells, so a healthy vascular system is good for your brain too! On top of eating a “heart-healthy” diet, there are specific foods that are filled with antioxidants and proteins that are vital to brain function, seven of which are easy to obtain and pretty tasty too.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the production of brain cells. The human brain is made up of about 60% fatty tissue, and about half of that is of the Omega-3 type. EPA and DHA are two types of fatty acids that are vital for normal brain function and memory. Studies on DHA have shown that older adults with low levels of DHA have a smaller sized brain and suffer from learning and memory deficits compared to those with healthy levels. It was also found that EPA and DHA levels have a direct correlation with a person’s mood, and when levels of these fatty acids were raised, patients reported a boost in mood and experienced a positive impact on depression. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in certain types of fish like salmon, trout, sardines, and others with higher fat content as well as certain popular plant-based options like chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and walnuts. For those who don’t like these food options there are supplements like fish oil, algae oil, and ground flaxseed oil that can be added to other foods to make it as easy as possible for you to achieve the recommended dose of 1,000mg-2,000mg per day to maintain healthy levels of EPA and DHA.
- Turmeric Curcumin is extremely beneficial to brain health and overall wellness because it is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It decreases the main chemical used in the transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are a type of protein found to build up in the brain tissue, causing inflammation and cell death. Turmeric Curcumin also decreases one of the transcription factors of Amyloid, which is the most abundantly found protein built up in deposits in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients. Using Turmeric Curcumin in cooking adds a bold, tasty flavor to your dinner and fights to protect your brain. It is also available in capsule form for those who don’t care for its taste.
- Glutathione is another anti-inflammatory antioxidant that works to reduce neuroinflammation, oxidative stress, and Amyloid pathology. Dr. Nady Braidy, Leader of the Brain Ageing Research Laboratory at the Centre for Healthy Brain Aging in Australia, spoke on the importance of supplementing glutathione as we age. He said that depleted levels of glutathione in the brain have been linked to cognitive decline and the development of Alzheimer’s. Supplementing with the oral supplement Ƴ-glutamylcysteine or injecting glutathione either intravenously or intramuscularly is an effective way of combating cognitive decline and decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Unsalted Pumpkin Seeds are a tasty snack or salad topping filled with neuroantioxidants and minerals required in the brain to control the nerve signaling between cells that affects learning and memory.
- Berries and Pomegranates are filled with antioxidants to support healthy brain function as well. Blueberries and pomegranate seeds contain specialized antioxidants that work directly in the brain, accumulating in the tissue to improve communication between brain cells and fight oxidative stress and inflammation caused by cytokines and free radicals. These specialized antioxidants, anthocyanins and polyphenols, can slow down brain aging and lower the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.
- Dark Chocolate is another treat filled with minerals and antioxidants, called flavonoids, which work in the brain to improve memory and slow age-related mental decline. It also has vitamins and minerals in it that help to lower blood pressure and support a healthy cardiovascular system. Snacking on a few pieces of 70% cocoa with less than 5g of added sugar or making a smoothie with 100% unsweetened cocoa powder are delicious ways to support both your brain and heart.
- Most types of nuts contain Vitamin E, who’s antioxidant properties help to slow mental decline. They are also an excellent source of protein, iron, fiber, and unsaturated fats, all of which are beneficial to the cardiovascular system and as we discussed earlier: anything good for the heart is good for the brain! A handful a day is a great midday snack to give your body a little extra help. Or you can make yourself a smoothie bowl using that unsweetened cocoa powder, chia or ground flax seeds, some antioxidant-filled berries, and sprinkle some of your favorite snacking nuts on top for a sweet treat filled with brain power.
Eating a brain-boosting diet is much easier and more enjoyable than people tend to think. Some small changes like decreasing your consumption of red meats, sodium, sugar, and saturated fats; along with increasing your consumption of fish, poultry, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables can help improve your memory, mood, and cognitive function, as well as decrease your risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease. It’s never too early to start taking extra care of your body, and a well-nourished, happy brain is a healthy brain!