What we eat affects our brain health for sure, but there is no one magical supplement or food for optimal brain health. Nor is there one right dietary pattern solely for our brains. However, we show you a range of foods you should eat and a number of eating patterns (e.g. MIND diet, Asian eating, vegan eating, and the Mediterranean diet) that provide good nutrients for the brain.
A common element among different eating patterns good for brain health
One common element in the many different diets that promote good food for the brain, is that there should be lots of healthy plant foods rich in antioxidants.
This is because plants produce antioxidants to keep themselves protected from diseases and ultra-violet light. These antioxidants, which we assimilate into the body when we eat plants in the form of vegetables, fruits, seeds, grains, nuts, and beans, also offer disease protection to our cells, including our brain cells.
Other Foods That Are Good For Brain Health
In addition to the antioxidant-rich foods, many other foods, especially those containing substances which reduce inflammation in the brain and the body are found to be good for brain health.
We show you the top 8 eating patterns that are good for brain health; pick one or a combination of a few to create a ‘brain smart’ dietary pattern that works best for you.
Top eating patterns for brain health
1 Take Fewer Calories
There are many ways to do this without feeling hungry. Two best ways are:
- Drink a soup or eat a veggie-packed salad at the start of the meal
- Use a small serving plate (It sounds strange, but it works; we eat less when we use a small plate)
Reducing your calorie count helps you lose weight, which in turn helps reverse several risk factors linked with Alzheimer’s disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.
2 Eat Several Servings Of Vegetables And Fruits Per Day
As per the Chicago Health and Aging Project, there is a strong relation between higher vegetable consumption and a significantly slower rate of decline in one’s cognitive abilities. All the participants were asked to fill out food logs and underwent cognitive ability tests at regular time intervals for six years. The researchers found that participants who ate in excess of four vegetable servings daily recorded 40% slower decline in their cognitive abilities than those who did not.
3 Use Spices Generously
Spices and herbs not only add flavor to food, but they also offer several health benefits, including protection from Alzheimer’s. For example, more than one study has shown that curcumin can help reduce the risk of many diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and depression. Just half a teaspoon of curcumin in a day can reduce the fasting blood sugar by about 30% in Diabetes Type 2 patients. As Type 2 Diabetes is linked with Alzheimer’s, curcumin helps reduce the risk of it as well.
4 Marinate Meat Before Cooking It
When protein, sugar, and fat react with heat, harmful compounds called AGEs are formed. Found in high levels in processed meats, grilled and fried foods, sausages, and bacons, AGEs when consumed can trigger certain changes in the brain that are harmful.
Getting rid of harmful AGEs is not difficult at all: marinate your meat or fish before broiling or grilling or make them moist by other means, like boiling, poaching, or braising. AGEs are drastically reduced when meats are cooked using these methods.
5 Snack On Seeds And nuts
Apart from providing an abundant supply of omega-3 fatty acids, seeds and nuts are also rich in Vitamin E and selenium, two nutrients that are believed to be extremely good for brain health.
When it comes to edible brain protection, walnuts sit pretty high in the list. They not only provide a high dose of omega-3 fatty acids but also offer us antioxidants which have been found to be effective in reducing Alzheimer’s in mice.
6 Add Coldwater Fish To Your Diet
Coldwater fishes are an extremely good source of omega-3 fatty acid, which lowers inflammation in humans. According to a study done to understand the relation between omega-3 fatty acid consumption and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found that the risk of Alzheimer’s was as much as 60% lower in people who ate fish at least once every week than those who rarely or never ate fish.
7 Drink tea
Green and black tea are two excellent sources of catechins which are extremely effective in reducing and warding off oxidative damage in the body. Tea also lowers not only blood pressure but also cholesterol levels and is overall good for one’s health.
8 Dark Chocolate
It is common knowledge that desserts, at least most of them, are loaded with sugar which increases blood sugar levels. Recent research shows that oxidative damage is greater in people with elevated blood sugar levels than those with normal blood sugar levels.
However, there is one dessert that actually prevents oxidative damage, and that is dark chocolate. It is rich in antioxidants called flavonoids, which are also present in most brightly-colored vegetables and fruits.
This probably explains the finding of one study, which revealed that baby bloomer who consumed drinks rich in chocolate two times per day for a period of three months performed equally well on memory tests as participants who were years younger to them. The same study also stated that the blood flow to the hippocampus (which plays a key role in the consolidation of information) improved after the consumption of a chocolate drink.