The Foods You Should Be Eating for a Healthy Brain
September is Alzheimer Awareness and Prevention Month and Last Week We Promised to Continue with Great Information to Optimize Your Brain and Help Prevent Alzheimer's So, Without Further Adieu
Here Are Some Of The Best Foods For Your Brain
Think of these therapeutic foods as fuel or "medicine" for the brain. While I have detailed 15 of the top choices below, there are many more therapeutic foods, just make sure you eat a diverse diet.
Eating a handful of nuts each day can help reduce chronic disease risk. Almonds contain chemicals that are the building blocks of neurotransmitters, which are vital for memory and attention. They are a good source of monounsaturated fats, calcium, magnesium, and potassium and are high in phytonutrients and two important antioxidants, vitamin E and glutathione. Other nuts like walnuts are also brain healthy because of their DHA content. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals also improve mental alertness.
How to incorporate to your diet: Almonds and Walnuts can be whole, sliced, slivered, or chopped and tossed into a salad and cooked veggies. Keep as a snack in your purse or the car for a quick and easy snack. Almond butter is another healthy alternative, and almonds can also be used as almond meal, a substitute ideal for lower carbohydrate or grain-free cooking.
Avocados are often referred to as brain food. They are a healthy source of quality fat and potassium and high in fibre. Avocados are also a good source of glutathione and Vitamin E, both antioxidants. The monounsaturated fat contained in avocados also increases your body’s ability to absorb the phytonutrients in other fruits and vegetables that you consume and offer antioxidant protection.
How to incorporate to your diet: Use them to garnish dishes, soups, and salads; serve guacamole or as an avocado boat with some hemp seeds heart. They can also be used to make great deserts. Avocado oil can be used for cooking or to dress salads or vegetables.
On the nutritional naughty list for years, egg yolks are finally recognized for their large amounts of choline, which supports brain health.
How to incorporate to your diet: Eggs make a great breakfast, snack, dinner omelet and are an inexpensive source of protein.
4. Blueberries (and all berries) particularly Wild blueberries
Berries, particularly the dark-blue or purplish kind like wild blueberries and blackberries, are an excellent source of fibre and antioxidants that have been shown to improve memory and cognition. Their potent antioxidants may improve blood flow in the brain, while protecting it from free radical damage. Strawberries have also been shown to provide similar improvements in memory and cognition. Berries are also beneficial brain food because they are relatively low in carbohydrates and have a low glycemic impact.
How to incorporate to your diet: Fresh or frozen berries can be added to a smoothie or a fruit salad or eaten as a snack.
5. Broccoli (and all cruciferous vegetables)
Cruciferous vegetables (also known as Brassicas) include- broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, turnip and mustard greens, arugula, watercress, bok choy, kohlrabi, radishes, and daikon. While "all" vegetables have health benefits, those in the cruciferous family play an important role by reducing markers for degenerative damage in the nervous system, slowing age-related declines in brain function and cognitive performance. Cruciferous contain sulforaphane, which helps protect the brain from excessive inflammation by helping ramp up the production of glutathione important for detoxification.
Cruciferous assist in detoxification, stimulate the immune system, slow down cognitive decline, and act as powerful antioxidants.
How to incorporate to your diet: Chop and allow it to rest for a few minutes before cooking to enhance health benefits. Raw and cooked broccoli offer different benefits, so prepare your broccoli both ways. Steaming for only a few minutes is recommended when cooking broccoli. Eat as a side, make a soup or eat as a snack with tahini dressing.
6. Green Tea
Green tea contains many phytochemicals that may help improve memory and cognition as well as powerful antioxidants that may decrease oxidative damage to the mitochondria in the brain. In addition, the tannins and polyphenols of green tea help the body regulate insulin sensitivity while helping the brain maintain a steady supply of glucose, help to create a positive mood, and may prevent brain damage after strokes and other brain injuries (concussions) by assisting the body’s DNA repair system.
How to incorporate to your diet: While green tea contains less caffeine than coffee, this may still be more caffeine than some can tolerate. If so, try disposing the first steeping of the tea and steep again using the same tea bag, or use decaffeinated green tea. You can also use green tea in a smoothie for breakfast or in soup near the end of its cooking. Green tea is also great for poaching fish.
7. Olive oil (cold-pressed, unfiltered/cloudy, extra-virgin)
Olive oil contains protective antioxidant phytonutrients called polyphenols that also have anti-inflammatory benefits. However, the olive oil should be "cold-pressed" and "extra-virgin." It is green in color, has a stronger flavor, and is the result of the first crushing of the olives, the most nutrient-rich. Store your olive oil in an airtight, dark glass container.
How to incorporate to your diet: Use EVOO only when cooking over medium heat, as it can become oxidized if cooked at high temperatures. Use olive oil to dress vegetables after cooking, or use in salad dressings combined with apple cider vinegar, or other favorites. If using unfiltered, cloudy olive oil, do not cook with it at all; it is best for topping veggie and salads.
8. Pomegranate Seeds
Pomegranate seeds are one of the richest sources of antioxidants with additional anti-inflammatory benefits. The seeds are high in fibre and are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They are also a significant source of those polyphenols that are important in brain health.
How to incorporate to your diet: The seeds can be used as a garnish for fruit or vegetable salads and should be refrigerated and used within 4-5 days. Pomegranate seeds also pair well with olives.
9. Salmon (wild) - sardines
Wild salmon is a significant source of DHA, the omega-3 fat that is one of the keys to a healthy brain. Sardines (herring) are also shown to be high in Omega-3’s and are an inexpensive nutrient dense food and low in mercury and other pollutants. Wild salmon also contains a powerful carotenoid that gives salmon its distinctive color and acts as an antioxidant. However, avoid farm-raised salmon that are grown in pens and fed artificial coloring to create the orange color, as well as fishmeal containing chemicals, which are associated with health problems.
How to incorporate to your diet: Wild salmon can be baked, slow-roasted, poached, added to stews and soups and added to salads. Sardines can be mashed in avocado and capers and added to a salad.
We tend not to eat much sea vegetables and yet, they provide the raw materials for healthy mitochondrial function and nourishment for the nervous system. They have been found to have antibacterial, antioxidant, and immune system-supporting properties. Sea vegetables are an excellent source of minerals such as selenium and magnesium, containing more than 10 times the amount in other vegetables. Certain seaweeds are high in calcium (hijiki, arame, and wakame), while others contain abundant amounts of iron (sea lettuce, hijiki, wakame, and kelp), and others are an excellent source of iodine (kelp, kombu, and arame).
How to incorporate to your diet: You want to use fresh seaweeds from safe waters and wash before using. As for dried seaweed, they can be found in sheets (nori and dulse), strands, or powdered forms. Most are prepared by soaking in water and soaking them longer makes them more digestible. You can use the soaking liquid in soups. The seaweed can be chopped and stirred into stir-fries, soups, stews, and salads. You can also snack on dried nori sheets, sprinkling dulse flakes on a salad, making a nori roll sushi or using kelp instead of salt to season food.
11. Spinach (Green Leafy vegetables)
Green leafy vegetables contain many antioxidants that help to improve memory and cognition. Spinach, in particular, is also high in carotenoids and flavonoids that provide anti-inflammatory protection. Getting regular helpings of leafy green brain foods — like kale, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce — can help keep dementia at bay. When it comes to brain power, greens should be on your plate (and cover a lot of that plate) every meal.
How to incorporate to your diet: It is best to boil spinach uncovered for one minute to minimize loss of nutrients and flavor while reducing its oxalic acid content. Oxalic acid binds the calcium in spinach and reduces its availability to the body, while cooked spinach supplies more antioxidants than raw spinach. That being said, it doesn’t mean you can never eat raw spinach. Drizzle cooked spinach with sautéed garlic and have it as a side for breakfast, lunch or dinner, add spinach to soups, or make a salad starring fresh baby spinach, pumpkin seeds, and strawberries.
Turmeric is an ancient root that’s been used for its healing properties throughout history. Curcumin, a chemical compound found in turmeric, the spice is actually one of the most powerful (and natural) anti-inflammatory agents. Turmeric also helps boost antioxidant levels and keep your immune system healthy, while also improving your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information.
How to incorporate to your diet: Add Turmeric to your spice arsenal in your everyday cooking, add to eggs, soups, stews, dips and sprinkle on veggies or make "golden milk".
Rosemary is one of my all time favorite herbs, so much so that it is part of my branding logo as it is truly remarkable. Rosemary is one of those herbs with hundreds of uses. Carnosic acid, one of the main ingredients in rosemary, helps protect the brain from neurodegeneration. It does this by protecting the brain against chemical free radicals, which are linked to neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, strokes and normal aging in the brain. It has also been shown to improve blood flow to the brain. Even simply smelling rosemary as beneficial effects on your health.
For a vegetable with such few calories, celery really packs a punch of health benefits. High in antioxidants and polysaccharides, celery acts as natural anti-inflammatory and can help alleviate symptoms related to inflammation. Celery contains loads of vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
How to incorporate to your diet: Because it’s so nutrient-dense — it’s a great snack option. And while we often eat celery stalks, don’t skip the seeds and leaves; both provide extra health benefits and taste great in things like stir fries and soups. The juice is also great way to get a good dose of vitamins and minerals.
15. Bone Broth
Bone broth is in my book the panacea of foods for healing your gut and, in turn, healing your brain with the exception of some cases when it is not well tolerated. This ancient food is full of health benefits, ranging from boosting your immune system, overcoming leaky gut, improving joint health and overcoming food allergies. Its high levels of collagen help reduce intestinal inflammation, and healing amino acids like proline and glycine keep your immune system functioning properly and help improve memory. When prepared with additional vegetables and herbs it also provides additional health benefits. For example, adding turmeric or rosemary to your broth.
How to incorporate to your diet: Bone broth can be used as a base in soups or as a nutritious snack.
And of Course We Can't Forget
Brain Boosting Supplements
In the way of "nootropics"- supplements that have a beneficial effect on brain function they range from supporting memory, motivation, creativity, alertness and general cognitive function, it really is a question of what YOU need. That’s why a supplement protocol should always be customized to your very own unique and specific needs and that holds true to any protocol. Your cognitive issues stem from root causes thus other dietary and supplement modalities may also be needed to address these (i.e blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances).
Here are only a few examples of those supplements that can show benefits:
o PS- Phosphatidylserine
o Lion’s mane- mushroom
o PQQ- Pyrroloquinoline quinone
o Mg Threonate
o Omega 3’s
o Vitamin D3
o Gingko Biloba
o Gotu Kola
o Bacopa Monnieri
o Rhodiola Rosea
o B Vitamins
About the Author
Clinical Functional Nutritionist
Following a career in law and a move to Toronto, Caroline decided to pursue her true passions, holistic health and helping others. Caroline’s passion for holistic health grew through the years while searching for solutions for her personal health problems. Her personal successful journey towards health and vitality is a testament to the impactful contribution of nutrition. She practices clinical nutrition at VitalityMD.
Using a functional medicine approach, Caroline focuses on uncovering the root causes, the “why”, of your health issues by carefully listening to her clients concerns, looking at the body as a whole, conducting detailed intakes and delivering achievable and customized health programs to restore and maintain optimal health and vitality.