Enjoy Better Brain Health in 2022 With These Nutrition Tips
Did you know that your diet affects your brain as well as your physical health? These nutrition tips will help you work toward better brain health this year.
The start of a new year prompts many of us to implement healthier diet and exercise habits to improve our physical health. But did you know that what you eat affects not only the health of your body, but the function of your brain as well?
There are many factors that promote a healthy brain, including exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and maintaining healthy relationships. Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, protein, and fiber can also help you maintain optimal cognitive health.
Incorporating the following nutrition tips will help put you on the road to better brain health this year.
Eat Brain-Boosting Fats
Fats are vital for healthy brain function. In fact, as much as 60% of our brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is Omega-3 fatty acids.
There are three main Omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids are essential building blocks of the brain. They are important to learning and memory, help protect and promote brain health, are connected to long-term cognitive function, and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, a deficiency of Omega-3s in the diet has been linked to learning impairments and depression.
Foods high in Omega-3s include fatty fish such as salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines, as well as nuts and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Include Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars that supply most of the fuel needed for your body — and your brain — to function well. Complex carbohydrates are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Complex carbohydrates take the body longer to digest, providing a steadier source of fuel for the brain than simple carbohydrates like candy and sugary drinks. The fiber in complex carbohydrates also feeds the good bacteria in the gut, which may play a role in brain function.
Boost brain power with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.
Consume Choline-Rich Foods
Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that while the body produces a small amount of it, the majority of it must be obtained through the diet.
Choline helps with brain cell membrane formation, myelin production, and gene expression. It is also used by the body to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is vital for neuroplasticity, learning, and memory. Consuming choline-containing foods helps boost memory and protect the brain against cognitive decline.
Eggs are extremely high in choline, with egg yolks being one of the most concentrated sources of this essential nutrient available. Other choline-rich foods include meat, beef liver, fish, soybeans, potatoes, brussels sprouts, peas, beans, and cauliflower.
Incorporate Foods High in B Vitamins
B vitamins play multiple roles in maintaining good brain health. For instance, they may help slow the progression of cognitive decline and prevent dementia. They do this by lowering levels of homocysteine — an amino acid thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. B vitamins may also boost the production of neurotransmitters — chemicals that deliver messages between neurons in the brain and body.
A deficiency in B vitamins could put you at higher risk for cognitive decline, including memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Deficient levels of vitamin B12 and folate have also been linked to depression.
Foods high in B vitamins include eggs, whole grains, fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens), and legumes. However, vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. So if you eat a vegan diet, you will need to take a supplement to ensure you get enough B12.
Don’t Forget About Minerals
We focus a lot on getting enough vitamins in our diet, but not as much on the benefits of consuming enough of the vital minerals our body needs. Minerals like zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper play crucial roles in maintaining good brain health.
- Zinc is important for nerve signaling. Low zinc levels have been linked with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and other neurological conditions.
- Magnesium supports learning and memory. Magnesium deficiency can play a part in depression, epilepsy, migraines, and other neurological diseases.
- Iron plays a role in important processes such as oxygen transportation, myelin production, and the synthesis and metabolism of neurotransmitters in the brain. Iron deficiency can cause symptoms like brain fog and fatigue and lead to impaired brain function.
- Copper is used by the brain to control nerve signals. Low copper levels can lead to a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Mineral-rich foods include nuts and seeds, shellfish, sardines, cruciferous vegetables, starchy vegetables, eggs, beans, cocoa products (including dark chocolate), avocados, berries, bananas, and ancient grains like quinoa, millet, and sorghum.
Amp Up the Antioxidants
Antioxidants help to protect the body and brain cells against damage from oxidative stress and inflammation, two things that may contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
For instance, curcumin — a powerful antioxidant found in turmeric — may help improve memory, ease depression, and boost the growth of new brain cells. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, a group of antioxidant plant compounds that may enhance memory and slow age-related cognitive decline. Vitamin C is another potent antioxidant that supports brain health and may protect against conditions like anxiety, depressive disorders, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Foods high in antioxidants include dark chocolate, oranges, berries, broccoli, kale, spinach, red cabbage, beets, artichokes, pumpkin seeds, pecans, beans, turmeric, and coffee.
Make Eating for Better Brain Health a Habit
Getting brain health benefits from a healthy diet takes time. Eating a few of these foods here and there won’t magically improve your brain health. The biggest benefit will come from incorporating a wide variety of these brain-boosting foods into your diet on a regular basis. Over time, a diet high in these foods will help keep your brain healthy.
At LearningRx, we know the importance of keeping our brains healthy and our cognitive skills strong. That’s why we offer brain training to boost the cognitive skills crucial to thinking, learning, reading, memory, and attention. If you’d like to learn more about how brain training can benefit you or your child, contact us today.