When thinking about our diet, most of us think about heart health or maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. But one very important organ often gets forgotten -- your brain. Brain function, memory and cognition are all influenced by our diet. There is no overnight secret to a healthier brain, however, incorporating foods that support brain health can help improve your overall quality of life in the years to come.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that our body does not produce, therefore, we must get it through our diet. Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is an omega-3 that our brain needs for normal function. It is associated with memory, and low levels of DHA have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet with fish, walnuts, chia seeds and ground flax seed. Studies show that consistency of DHA consumption is the key to improving brain health, so aim to make these a regular part of your diet.
Antioxidants help protect healthy cells from damage by free radicals. This damage can cause oxidative stress on our brains, which increases as we age. A study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that older women who had an antioxidant-rich diet delayed memory decline by 2.5 years.
Flavonoids are an antioxidant that our brain uses as a defense. They can be found in colorful produce, such as berries or leafy greens. Vitamin E is another antioxidant and can be found in salad dressings, peanut butter, nuts and seeds.
Bottom Line: Be mindful of what you eat. Diets such as the MIND diet focus on incorporating a number of healthy foods into your everyday meals. Omega-3 foods and antioxidants come in many delicious forms, and the long-term results are definitely worth the extra attention.
Written by: Meghan McGillvray, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Clinical and Translational Medicine
2. Brigham and Women's Hospital