When we discuss health, it’s often centered around topics like strong bones and heart, balanced blood sugar and healthy weight. But don’t forget about the important organ that sits atop our whole body and is vital for everything we think and do: the brain!
Good Brain Foods
By considering the health of our entire body, including the brain, we can help protect it from age-related troubles in mind and body. A healthy diet in general is important for keeping our brains well, and there are certain whole foods that may be specifically helpful. They include:
Avocados are high in monounsaturated fat, which can be helpful for healthy blood flow and lowering blood pressure — both of which promote brain health.
How to enjoy them: Avocados can be eaten alone with a little salt or pepper, on top of salads or any other dish, and even as the base in smoothies. They are a great substitute for mayonnaise on turkey and chicken sandwiches, too!
#2 Whole Grains
Intact whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and even whole grain breads and pastas can help reduce the risk of heart disease, help keep bad cholesterol down, and promote blood flow to the brain. Whole grains also have fiber and vitamin E, which has been linked to less age-related cognitive decline in some studies.
How to enjoy them: As the base of a dish with veggies and protein, in salads, or have oatmeal, rice, or quinoa hot or cold for breakfast.
Studies have shown blueberries as possibly protective against oxidative stress and may help reduce the effects of aging-related conditions.
How to enjoy them: Have a cup of blueberries by themselves, frozen in a smoothie, or with some Greek yogurt and honey.
Fish are rich in omega-3s, which are essential for a healthy brain and for fighting inflammation. A specific type of omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA) might even help the brain cells communicate and support learning.
How to enjoy them: Two to three servings of fish per week is recommended. Think oily fish like wild salmon, herring, trout, or sardines! If you’re vegetarian, see some DHA plant-based sources below, or you can take a vegan omega-3 supplement.
#5 Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds also contain vitamin E and fiber, as well as good fats. Enjoying an ounce per day is a great way to enjoy some healthy and satisfying fats.
How to enjoy them: Try raw or roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds (bonus: those last three contain vegetarian sources of DHA), sunflowers seeds, peanut butter or tahini, just to name a few. You can also sprinkle them on salads or blend them in dressings!
The high fiber and protein in beans helps keep blood sugar levels stable, which is important for overall health and a steady stream of energy to the body and brain.
How to enjoy them: Have at least ½ cup each day. Lentils, black beans, and garbanzo beans are great choices. Try them in salads, soups, dips, with rice or quinoa dishes, or even scrambled in eggs.
Broccoli, along with other leafy greens, are great because they’re high in fiber and nutrients, low in fat and calories, and easy to add to any dish. Broccoli is also high in vitamin K, which has been shown to support brain function. It’s also high in glucosinolates, a compound that may help keep the central nervous system and our memories running well.
How to enjoy it: Broccoli can be steamed, stir-fried with other foods, roasted in the oven, chopped raw in salads, and basically thrown in with any dish to bump up the nutrition.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we must eat a variety of healthy whole foods, plentiful in vegetables, fruits, proteins, legumes, grains, and healthy fats, to support a vibrant brain and nervous system. Combining that with regular exercise and daily activities that stimulate our minds can help us take care of our precious bodies, including our brains, as they carry us through life.