The human brain is a delicate organ and, given its importance, needs to be protected and treated well. Numerous studies have shown that diet can play a significant role in brain health. Consuming certain types of foods has actually been shown to decrease brain aging by around 7.5 years. This means eating a brain healthy diet prevents dementia and other conditions associated with deterioration of the brain:
1. Fatty fish
It’s long been considered that fish is brain food and this is a very true statement. Specifically fatty fish such as salmon and trout which are rich in Omega-3 are great for brain health. This is because about 60% of the brain is made up of fat and of that fat half is Omega-3 fats. Basically, 30% of our brains are Omega-3 fatty acids so by eating fatty fish we are replenishing the building blocks of this important organ. So a rich diet of these types of fish helps slow brain aging, avoid depression and when eaten at a young age can help avoid learning impairments.
Coffee is considered a short term boost to the brain due to its caffeine content. In the natural function of the brain the neurotransmitter Adenosine attaches to receptors in the brain throughout the day to make people feel sleepy. Caffeine is similar in structure to Adenosine so actually blocks some of the receptors keeping the mind awake and alert. This is why we feel less sleepy after drinking coffee and tend to be sharper. There is also evidence that caffeine boosts short term memory. The drawback, however, is that as it is a stimulant the body over time becomes used to the effects and more needs to be consumed to maintain the effects.
There are a wide variety of nuts and certain types have different benefits for brain health. Walnuts for example have high levels of Omega-3s which as we know are important for rebuilding and maintaining brain tissue. Almonds and hazelnuts are both high in vitamin E which has been proven to slow cognitive decline. This obviously means that conditions such as dementia can be slowed with the addition of vitamin E to a diet. Also peanuts, which although not technically a nut, have also been shown to stem cognitive decline. This is due to Niacin which is found in peanuts and when the body is deficient in Niacin there is a higher risk for cognitive decline.
The health benefits of blueberries is well known as this is a real super fruit. Packed with vitamins and nutrients it is also high in antioxidants. These antioxidants help to destroy free radicals which are associated with general physical decline in the body. These free radicals cause aging in general so consuming antioxidant rich foods keeps all parts of the body younger and healthier for longer.
Broccoli contains a biomolecule known as sulforaphane which has been proven to promote the regeneration of brain cells. This allows the brain to remain as healthy as possible under normal circumstances. Dementia sufferers are actively losing brain cells due to the condition so sulforaphane helps to replace the lost cells.
6. Pumpkin seeds
As a snack pumpkin seeds are both tasty and packed with Omega-3s. This means that they are excellent for brain health as they help to supply the important building blocks to maintain a healthy structure to the organ itself.