Making small changes to the way you eat can help support memory, brain function, and brain health now and later in life. Incorporate one or more of the following foods into your nutrition plan each day and enjoy the healthy variety that brain-boosting foods bring to the table.
The brain is more than 60 percent water by weight. Proper hydration is necessary to support short-term memory, focus, and decision-making ability. Drink ½ – 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight daily, or more if you’re active, and start your day with a glass of water to hydrate after sleeping.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines provide the EPA and DHA fats and B vitamins that promote increased circulation in the brain, better focus and improved memory. Keep in mind that a serving of fatty fish may not be as large as lean protein servings. Think of something the size of a checkbook (4 to 6 ounces) when measuring fatty fish.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are loaded with alpha lineoleic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin E, both of which support memory and cognition. Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are the best choices. Measure out a serving instead of eating from the jar or bag. It’s easy to over-do it with these nutrition-packed, dense foods. We suggest ¼ cup or 1 ounce as a serving size.
Nuts aren’t the only foods that contain powerful, brain-boosting oils. Avocados, olives and olive oil are also options for increasing your intake of omega-3’s. Drizzle uncooked olive oil atop salads and tomato-based dishes for extra flavor and healthy fats.
Egg yolks provide choline, the precursor to the powerful neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Eat the whole egg to boost memory. Soft boil some eggs and serve with mixed greens and a balsamic, olive oil dressing for a double-whammy of brain power in a quick and easy meal, or try deviled eggs made with avocado instead of mayonnaise.
A recent study at Tuft’s University showed that blueberries help improve short-term memory loss by neutralizing free radicals that affect the brain. Strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries also contain antioxidants to support brain function, and they’re another fabulous and colorful salad topping. The vitamin C from berries enhances the absorption of iron when served in dishes like a spinach salad. Their tart sweetness complements many savory foods.
When it comes to leafy green veggies, as with most foods, the more vibrant the color, the more nutrient density per serving. Spinach, arugula, kale, and other dark, leafy greens are full of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which may help protect the brain against impaired cognitive function, Alzheimer’s, and increased risk of stroke. Large leaves make a great replacement for taco shells, sandwich bread, and other processed foods. Whatever is on the menu, make it a wrap and feed your brain.
Also rich in B vitamins, Greek yogurt is a versatile brain food you’ll wonder how you lived without. Naturally rich in calcium and a good source of vitamin D, use it instead of sour cream, mayonnaise or salad dressing to make every bite count.
Lean protein is important for fueling the body, and chicken is a tasty and healthy choice that also provides the brain with protective B vitamins. Like fish, chicken is a popular restaurant choice that is served a variety of ways. Choose grilled, pan-seared or broiled dishes instead of fried options for optimal nutrition.
Probiotics are good bacteria that live in the GI tract. Studies have shown that people who eat foods that are prebiotic can help promote a diverse and rich “gut flora” that can help absorb nutrients more easily. They have also been to known to lower anxiety levels and less stress. Members of the Allium family such as garlic, onions, and leeks are excellent fuel for your gut flora. Used in moderation, fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha tea, and kimchi are good for the GI and the brain. Look for fermented food products in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. Live probiotics require refrigeration.
In partnership with EXOS, a world leader in human performance and the management company for CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.