1. Brain-Healthy Foods Can Help You Stay Sharp
What you choose to pile onto your plate affects a lot more than just your stomach and energy levels — it can also have a huge impact on how well your brain functions, both today and in the future. “The brain’s neurons, or brain cells, can become rigid as you age, which means they don’t translate information very well to each other,” says Paul Nussbaum, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist and adjunct professor of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Brain Health Center. “One way to keep those brain cells communicating quickly and correctly, improving memory and lowering your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as you get older, is to add certain foods to your diet.” Ready to boost your brain power? Start incorporating some of these foods today.
A study on mice in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that extra virgin olive oil may improve learning and memory. “Olive oil is also the cornerstone of a heart-healthy diet, and good cardiovascular health is known to help brain health,” says Rebecca Katz, co-author of The Healthy Mind Cookbook. It’s also incredibly easy to add to your diet. Use it in salad dressing, sauté meats and vegetables in it, and even drizzle some on top of soup.
When it comes to foods that keep your brain sharp, the shining stars are foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. “Your body doesn’t create omega-3 fatty acids, so you have to consume them,” says Dr. Nussbaum. One of the most popular ways to do that is to eat wild salmon, although sardines and anchovies are also great sources of omega-3s. But don’t think you have to splurge on fresh fish from the seafood department — canned versions are just as healthy. “Gently flake canned sardines or salmon over a salad,” says Katz. “Add a squeeze of lemon on top, and you’re good to go.”
Dark fruits like blueberries and blackberries are loaded with antioxidants. Why is this important? “Antioxidants should be thought of as a broom that sweeps out dust from the garage,” says Nussbaum. “The dust particles in your body are known as free radicals, which can cause damage wherever they go, including in the brain. And just like omega-3 fatty acids, your body doesn’t create antioxidants, so you have to eat foods that have them.” Snack on fresh berries, use frozen ones in smoothies, or try Katz’s recommendation: Cook them down in a pot with a little water and a squeeze of lemon juice to make a compote perfect for spooning on top of yogurt.