They say that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. So don’t! As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I help individuals overcome their most frustrating food problems. And while you may not have healthy food on the brain all the time, there are foods that you can incorporate each day to ensure you’re giving your brain the best! Check out these 10 foods for better brain health:
1. Carbohydrates. This one’s easy… think of carbohydrate-containing foods – such as fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains – like high-octane fuel. They energize the brain and body and keep everything running smoothly. Aim to include carbohydrates at every meal and snack you enjoy.
2. Veggies. You likely knew that eating more vegetables is good for you, but did you know that they may help improve your memory too? It’s true – especially cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and dark leafy greens.
3. Foods Fortified with Vitamin D. While better known for its role in bone health, Vitamin D also allows the brain and body to communicate properly through your nerves. Fortified foods (meaning foods that have extra vitamins or minerals added to it) typically provide most of the vitamin D in our diets and include most milks, cereals, as well as some orange juices, yogurts, cheeses and soy beverages. Be sure to check the food label for exact Vitamin D content.
4. Berries and Cherries. These deeply colored fruits are a rich in anthocyanins that may boost your memory function and guard against dementia. Try fresh, frozen or dried blackberries, blueberries and cherries in your day.
5. Walnuts. They not only look a little bit like a brain, but walnuts contain heart-healthy fats and may improve your cognitive function. Walnuts are easier to enjoy than you think — add them to oatmeal or a salad or have a handful of walnuts as a satisfying snack.
6. Chia Seeds. These tiny black seeds contain heart-healthy fat in the form of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These essential fats are needed to form eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are both critical to keeping the brain functioning normally and efficiently.
7. Fish. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming at least 8 ounces of fish per week. This is because oily fish in particular, such as wild salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring and farmed trout, are great catches that contain that critical DHA. And studies have shown that long-term consumption of adequate DHA is linked to improved memory and learning ability and slowed progression of cognitive decline.
8. Seaweed. The ocean provides more than just delicious fish that benefits our brains. Algae is actually a primary source of DHA so don’t be shy about ordering seaweed salad next time you’re out for sushi or adding spirulina to your smoothie.
9. Turmeric. This golden yellow spice not only has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, but turmeric also helps boost your “happy hormone” (aka serotonin). Use it to brighten any meal, snack, or even beverage with just a pinch!
10. Lactobacillus casei. This probiotic, aka “good” gut bacteria, may play an important role in your gut-brain system by improving mental and neurological health according to recent studies. You can find L. casei in certain dairy and non-dairy yogurts and kefirs. Be sure to look for “contains live active cultures” or “contains probiotics” on the food label.
While no food or food group can 100% guarantee a beautiful mind until old age, taking preventative steps every day to eat better for your brain just might help preserve your valuable asset.
LINDSEY JOE, RDN, LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist from Nashville, TN. She is a weight management expert, meal planning master, and TN Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nashville Media spokesperson. Lindsey is passionate about helping people ignite the healthy that makes them happy and you can follow all her food-filled adventures at @themealplanningmethod! Or visit www.themealplanningmethod.com