As we age, one of the first things we begin to notice is that our memories aren’t quite what they once were. This is a troubling experience for many, as our memories are deeply connected to our sense of self and losing that can feel like losing a part of who you are. Luckily, our memories are like muscles and we can strengthen them in a number of ways. One of those ways is a healthier, brain-friendly diet that fuels cognitive function. Let’s take a look at some dietary options that can help you optimize your brain’s recall and retention abilities.
The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world. Consisting of high consumption of fruits, vegetables, bread and other cereals, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds, the Mediterranean diet may protect from cognitive decline and improve memory and attention. A staple of the Mediterranean diet is the high consumption of extra virgin olive oil, which has been found to protect memory and learning ability and possible to reduce cognitive decline.
“Keto” diets have risen in popularity for their numerous health benefits. Originally invented as a treatment for epileptic seizures in children, ketogenic diets consist of a high fat and low carbohydrate intake which forces the body to burn fats instead of carbs for energy, thus entering a metabolic state known as “ketosis.” Animal research has suggested that ketogenic diets in older animals improves memory, preserves brain function, and increases the likelihood of living to old age. Ketogenic diets have also been the subject of health benefit studies related to Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, autism, brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease and sleep disorders.
Add These Brain-Boosting Foods To Your Diet
In addition to these two diets, there are a number of healthy options that can optimize your cognitive function. For starters, avoiding processed foods, trans fats, and sugar is a great foundation for not only a body and a brain-healthy diet.
This is a staple of the “brain foods” group. Fish like salmon, trout and sardines are rich in the all-important omega-3 fatty acids. Fun fact – About 60 percent of your brain is made of fat – and about half of that is made of omega-3 fats. This type of fat builds brain and nerve cells, making them essential for learning and memory. Studies show they can help ward off age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
Our favorite caffeine beverage is commonly used for its abilities as a concentration and alertness aid. However, it is also full of antioxidants that may support brain health as we age and is linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Another food filled with antioxidants, blueberries and other dark-colored berries help fight inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which may contribute to cognitive decline and neurological disease. Animal testing has shown that blueberry consumption helps improve memory and possibly even delay short-term memory loss.
Yes, yes, we all know the importance of “eating your vegetables.” Broccoli isn’t just any vegetable though, it is packed with antioxidants and vitamin K, which helps form sphingolipids, a type of fat found in brain cells. One serving of broccoli can give you your daily recommendation of vitamin K, so make sure you’re making it part of your daily diet!
Perhaps the tastiest item on this list, dark chocolate is a sweeter way to get a healthy dose of antioxidants (dark chocolate contains more antioxidants than some fruits, including blueberries!). Studies suggest that dark chocolate has a number of health benefits, including improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduction in risk of heart disease and improved brain function. Cocoa may also improve cognitive function in older adults suffering from mental impairment and potentially improve verbal fluency.
Another great snack option with health benefits, walnuts are filled with vitamin E. According to the Alzheimer’s Research Center, vitamin E can trap free radicals that are known to damage brain cells. Studies have shown that individuals with a high vitamin E diet had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Walnuts also contain brain-boosters like biotin, copper, manganese and omega-3 fats.