The brain is a highly complex organ with many hidden intricacies. As humans, we thrive on logic and reasoning to solve problems, make decisions, and lead balanced lives. However, as our brains age, it’s natural for cognition to decline.
We may not be as able to recall certain words or remember where we put our keys as easily. This is why brain-boosting foods are so important in an everyday diet.
An excellent diet can have a tremendous impact on brain function at any age. The right foods can support optimal cognitive performance and help prevent the onset of conditions like dementia later in life. Brain-boosting foods positively impact memory, focus, and other cognitive abilities. These include:
What Happens If We Don’t Look After Our Brain’s Health?
Over time, not getting enough of the right nutrients can take a toll on your brain. Most notably, you may notice a decline in cognitive function. This is because your brain is essentially made up of neurons, and neurons are made of proteins.
The right proteins are essential for proper cognitive function and include things like choline, iron, and zinc. A diet low in these proteins may lead to deficiencies and could be the cause of impaired mental abilities, including short-term or long-term memory loss, a decline in attention span, and difficulty with problem-solving or decision-making.
You could even notice a decline in your ability to feel complex emotions, like empathy and compassion. Another potential outcome of a low-protein diet is an increase in the production of free radicals. These are molecules that damage cells, which can lead to the development of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.
As we age, our bodies make less of an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which helps eliminate free radicals. With lower levels of this enzyme, we’re more susceptible to free radical damage, which can lead to a decline in brain function.
Rich and Healthy Proteins
A diet high in protein is best for keeping your brain healthy. Protein is essential for proper cognitive function and may even help prevent age-related cognitive decline. Getting enough protein has been shown to also help with weight loss, so this is another added benefit.
There are a few different types of protein that should be part of a healthy diet. Animal proteins, like fish, poultry, and eggs, are high in the amino acid called tyrosine, which is good for your brain. Plant-based proteins, including beans, legumes, and nuts, are also important for a healthy brain.
All of these foods are high in choline, a valuable amino acid that helps with neurotransmission and is critical for neurotransmitter function. Your brain uses choline to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate numerous cognitive systems, including memory and learning.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes, like soybeans, black beans, and chickpeas, are a great source of plant-based protein. They’re also high in fiber and are packed with B vitamins. B vitamins are essential for many bodily functions, including helping your brain make use of glucose for fuel.
If your diet is low in B vitamins, you may notice a decline in your ability to focus and clear thoughts. Beans and legumes are also a good source of iron, which is a crucial nutrient for cognitive function.
Iron is used by the brain to make new neurons and create neurotransmitters. While a healthy diet is crucial for proper brain function at any age, it’s particularly important as we age. In fact, eating the right foods can help prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and sunflower seeds, are a great source of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that boosts cognitive health. Vitamin E has been shown to be especially helpful for preventing cognitive decline in people who have type 2 diabetes.
A healthy diet may help to prevent the onset of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which are often associated with age-related cognitive decline. Nuts and seeds are also high in zinc, which is another crucial nutrient for brain function. Zinc has been shown to help with age-related decline in brain function and is associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens, like spinach, Swiss chard, and kale, are a good source of vitamin B6, which is helpful for both mood and cognitive function. Vitamin B6 is important for mood because it helps regulate the production of serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.
It’s also important for cognitive function because B6 is used in the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters associated with attention and focus. Some of the best brain-boosting foods are also good for your eyes and heart. Gatherings are also a good source of vitamin A, which is essential for eye health and helps with night vision.
Berries, like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, are an excellent source of flavonoids. These antioxidant-rich compounds help prevent age-related cognitive decline. Blueberries may also help reverse age-related cognitive decline, according to some studies.
These findings show that eating plenty of blueberries can help protect your brain from age-related decline and could help prevent cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, berries are a good source of vitamin C, which is important for a healthy immune system and for preventing diseases like the common cold.
Which Foods Can Actually Make You Smarter?
Smart people are known to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But what about the rest of us? Some foods are actually good for your brain. It’s important to know which ones so that you can have healthy meals on a regular basis. Here are some foods that will help keep your mind sharp.
One of the most common types of vegetable that boasts a wealth of nutrients is beets. Beets contain a filtering agent named nitrates, which can help improve cognitive performance by making blood vessels dilate more easily and increasing blood flow in the brain. Some common foods like fish, spinach, and milk are full of the nutrients that may help maintain brain health and cognitive function.
A healthy diet is key to maintaining good brain health throughout your life. A balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats will provide your body with the protein and vitamins it needs to function optimally.
While there’s no benefit to depriving yourself of indulgences, there is also no need to overdo it. It’s important to remember that too much of anything can be harmful to your health. It’s perfectly fine to have that piece of cake now and then as long as it’s not an everyday occurrence.