This is the Best Food to Boost Brain Health and Memory, According to a Dietitian
Categories: Diet Health 
Published: May 17, 2024
Author: Frances Largeman-Roth
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This Is The Best Food To Boost Brain Health And Memory, According To A Dietitian

Although our brains only take up 2% of our bodies, they take a lot of energy to run. In fact, 20% of the calories we take in are used by our brains. If you’ve ever tried to do a mentally challenging task on an empty stomach, you should be familiar with that fact. One of the best ways to keep your mind working well and prevent dementia and cognitive decline is to eat a diet full of brain foods.

The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, affects nearly 6 million Americans and is expected to rise to 14 million by 2060 due to our aging population. Cognitive decline, an impairment of memory, decision-making and ability to learn, develops due to aging neurons and the general slowing down of the speed at which the brain functions. It’s directly linked to the aging process and leads to worsening memory, attention and brain processing.

Beyond the calories that are burned by running all the many functions of the brain, there are specific foods that help support our brain’s activity. Here's what to know about so-called brain foods.

What is the No. 1 Best Food for Brain Health?

Fatty fish

Studies have shown that eating just one seafood meal per week has been linked with a lowered risk of both Alzheimer's and dementia. Our brains are mostly made up of omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA, so it makes sense that foods that contain these fats would help support brain health.

Omega-3 has been shown to help protect the brain with its anti-inflammatory effects, ability to help create new neurons, and power to help clear the brain of plaques, one of the signs of Alzheimer’s. The best-known sources of EPA and DHA on the planet are high-quality seafood, like wild Alaskan salmon, sablefish and halibut. Sardines are another source of omega-3s. Wild-caught seafood is sustainably caught and also has lower contaminants than farm-raised seafood.

What Foods Help with Brain Health?

Eggs

The micronutrient choline is finally getting the attention it deserves for its role in brain health, including memory, thinking, mood and more. Higher levels of choline intake are thought to support brain function, which may decrease the risk of some types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. One of the best dietary sources of choline is the egg. One large egg provides 150 milligrams, about 25% of the daily requirement for men and 35% for women.

You’ll find choline (plus nearly half of an egg’s protein and many other vitamins and minerals) in the yolk, so be sure to eat the whole egg. According to the American Heart Association, eggs can be included as part of a heart-smart diet for healthy adults.

Walnuts

Research has found that eating walnuts may be linked with improved cognitive function and memory in groups at high risk for age-related cognitive impairment, and reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease. The nut is also linked with a reduced risk of other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes, which are both risk factors for developing dementia. Whether you’re munching on walnuts for heart or brain health, you can feel good knowing that you’re covering both bases.

Berries

Known for being rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, berries contain several disease-fighting compounds. Research has found that eating berries has a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. A major contributor to Alzheimer’s and other chronic diseases is inflammation. Both strawberries and blueberries have anti-inflammatory benefits.

A study on strawberries found that when older adults, ages 60 to 75, were given the equivalent of 2 cups of strawberries daily for 90 days, they showed improvement in memory and learning tests. In a similar study, participants who ate the equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries daily were tested on verbal learning and task switching and had significantly fewer errors on both tests at 45 and 90 days.

Prunes

Known for their gut health and bone benefits, prunes are also great for your brain. Prunes are high in potassium and a source of vitamin B6 and copper, all micronutrients that contribute to normal functioning of the nervous system. What’s more, studies on prunes show that the dried fruit has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and memory-improving characteristics. The benefits are likely due to the high content of anthocyanin, a blue plant pigment.

Citrus Fruits

One of the markers of Alzheimer’sdDisease is neurodegeneration. The peel of a small citrus fruit from Okinawa, Japan called shikuwasa lime (also called citrus depressa) is rich in a plant compound called nobiletin. Nobiletin has been found to protect nerve cells and provide anti-inflammatory benefits and is looking promising as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s. The good news is that this important compound can also be found in mandarins, oranges, tangerines and grapefruits.

Cocoa Powder and Dark Chocolate

Cocoa beans are rich in flavanols, which help fight inflammation in our body and can increase blood flow to the brain. Choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate helps you get more of the protective polyphenols.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

As the staple of the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols and vitamin E. A 2023 study done at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that daily consumption of more than half a tablespoon of EVOO had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia compared to never or rarely consuming olive oil. The study also found that replacing just one teaspoon of margarine or mayo with the same amount of EVOO daily was associated with an 8 to 14% lower risk of dying from dementia.


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