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Boost Your Brain Power

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD Wellness Services Corporate Dietitian

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Sep 13th, 2017

Berry Smoothie Bowl

Did you know what you choose to eat and drink every day can boost your brainpower in the short and long term? Think you don’t need to worry about protecting your brain? Guess again! Brain power decline is already taking effect around the age of 45, according to research from France. Luckily, there are a few ways to potentially prevent this from happening to you!

The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage and inflammation, so for recommended brain health, start by emphasizing foods rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds!

Antioxidants help prevent oxidative stress in the body and may help delay effects of aging such as a decline in cognitive function. The antioxidant power peaks around two hours after the meal, so to keep a steady stream of antioxidants in your blood stream, enjoy a variety of colorful plant foods at every meal! Try dark green foods like kale, spinach or broccoli, red or purple foods like berries, cherries, tomatoes or beets and orange or yellow foods like carrots, sweet potato or mango.

Not only fruits and veggies contain antioxidants! Other foods, like nuts, olives and extra virgin olive oil, beans/legumes, whole grains, garlic, onions, herbs, spices, and tea (especially green and white teas) are great for your brain as well!

Although research in this area continues to develop, dietary patterns with anti-inflammatory activity seem to include eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, fish and plant sources of omega-3s (walnuts, ground flaxseed, etc.) whole grains instead of refined grains, and lean protein options instead of higher fat red meat and dairy.

Find five delicious recipes that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds below!

Green Leafy Veggies

Eating green leafy veggies could help slow cognitive decline and keep your mental abilities sharp as you age. We aren’t even talking Popeye level consumption! People who ate one to two servings a day had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger compared to people who didn’t eat any vegetables at all! Researchers identified the nutrients in leafy greens that were most likely helping to keep the brain healthy to be vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene. For a recipe filled with green leafy veggies, you have to try this Kale Farro Citrus Salad!

Kale Farro Citrus Salad

Berries

Eating berries at least several times a week may prevent age-related memory loss and other changes in brain function, according to growing evidence. Berries provide high levels of antioxidants, which help protect brain cells from damage. Foods like berries and walnuts (YUM!) help protect the brain and support long-term health! Refresh your body and brain with this Brain Boosting Berry Bowl recipe!

Brain Boosting Berry Bowl

Fish

Fish is our main source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids! These “smart fats” have established clinical benefits for supporting cognitive function in the brain throughout life. A recent German study added to the evidence, explaining that fish omega-3s improve brain function in healthy adults, ages 50-75. Fatty fish, like the salmon in these Salmon Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps, should be a part of your go-to brain boosting dinner rotation!

Salmon Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds provide important polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, but that’s not even the best part! Bursting with vitamin E, a potent antioxidant associated with brain health, nuts and seeds are small but mighty when it comes to brain health! Try something new with this super simple recipe for Lemon Raspberry Overnight Chia Pudding, featuring berries AND chia seeds!

Lemon Raspberry Overnight Chia Pudding

Walnuts specifically are rich in plant omega-3s and polyphenol compounds. Try this easy Rosemary Crunch Walnut recipe for a delicious snack, filled with brain boosting powers!

Rosemary Crunch Walnuts

B-Vitamins

B-vitamins are suspected to help aging and some experts suggest they collectively help protect your brain too!  More research is needed but recent evidence suggests folic acid, B6 and B12 may play a role in healthy brain-aging, and that low levels of these vitamins can lead to quicker brain deterioration. Find some B-vitamins in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fish and B-12 in animal products and some fortified foods.

Monounsaturated Fat

Fat isn’t always such a bad thing, there are healthy fats too! New research suggests substituting bad fats with good fats could help prevent a decline in memory. Some research has suggested that total amount of fat didn’t really matter but type of fat did! Over 4 years of testing, women over the age of 65 who consumed the highest amount of saturated fat, had worse overall cognitive and verbal memory scores compared to women with the lowest amounts. Women who ate the most monounsaturated fat (found in nuts, extra virgin olive oil and olives, canola oil, avocados, etc.) had better cognitive scores over time!

Keep these simple substitutions and delicious recipes in mind next time you want to boost your brain power and remember it’s never too early to start thinking about brain health!

For even more recipe inspiration, check out our Pinterest page!

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