Eat your way to good health? Yes, please! Eating the right foods – or superfoods – can actually increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain as you age. We’ve put together a menu of clever cuisine, including 2 delicious recipes to encourage you to eat smart. Literally.
Blueberries Studies in animals show that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies also show that blueberry-rich diets significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats.
Suggested serving: Add at least 1 cup of blueberries to your diet each day in any form – fresh, frozen or freeze-dried.
Wild salmon Deep-water fish are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances. Other fish that offer the benefits of omega-3s are sardines and herring.
Suggested serving: One 4-oz. serving, 2 to 3 times a week.
Nuts and seeds Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, which corresponds with less cognitive decline as you age. You might try almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, flax seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, sesame or sunflower seeds or walnuts. Nonhydrogenated nut butters include almond butter, peanut butter and tahini. Raw or roasted are fine, but if you’re watching your sodium intake, eat unsalted nuts.
Suggested serving: Add an ounce a day to your diet.
Avocados While an avocado is a fatty fruit, it’s a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.
Suggested serving: Because they’re high in calories, we suggest just 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado daily.
Whole grains Brown rice, oatmeal and whole-grain breads can reduce the risk of heart disease while also increasing blood flow. Even though wheat germ isn’t technically a whole grain, it has fiber, vitamin E and some omega-3s.
Suggested serving: A 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal, 2 Tbsp. of wheat germ or a slice of bread 2 to 3 times a day should do the trick.
Beans Beans keep glucose levels stable. And since the brain depends on glucose for fuel but can’t store it, it relies on a steady stream of energy – which beans can provide.
Suggested serving: A 1/2 cup of any beans each day will do, but lentils and black beans are especially healthy.
Sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes have high levels of carotenoids, which function as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.
Suggested serving: Between 6 to 8 oz. (approximately 1 potato) 2 to 3 times a week will benefit your brain.
Pomegranate juice This juice provides strong antioxidant benefits, protecting the brain from the damage of free radicals. Citrus fruits and colorful vegetables also have healthy antioxidant properties.
Suggested serving: Add 2 oz. of juice to your diet each day. Because of added sugar, dilute the juice with seltzer or spring water.
Dark chocolate Hooray! Dark chocolate has antioxidant properties. It also contains several natural stimulants, which improve focus and drive the production of endorphins, improving mood.
Suggested serving: 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. a day. This is one superfood to eat in moderation.
And here are the two recipes we promised that use ingredients from our smart-foods list above.
- For a brain-healthy energy snack, try these brainy energy bars. Mix them up in your food processor and no baking is required.
- A lovely main dish that includes brain- and heart-healthy ingredients is this recipe for pecan encrusted salmon with sweet potato sauce. It uses ingredients you are likely to have on hand and is relatively quick to make.