6 nutrient-packed foods to eat for better brain health

A full bar of dark chocolate on a pink abstract background

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It’s normal and expected for your brain to change over time, but there are plenty of things you can do to keep your brain as healthy as possible throughout your life and reduce your risk of developing neurodegenerative conditions (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease). Omar. Besides other basic healthy habits like getting regular exercise, trying to learn new things, and prioritizing sleep, one of your best bets for reducing the risk of such conditions and keeping your brain sharp is to focus on nutrition. After all, like any well-oiled machine, the brain requires adequate fuel (translation: nutrients) to function optimally, according to Jonathan Portell, a registered dietitian at Lenox Hill Hospital.

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Portel notes that the brain runs around the clock without taking a break. In addition to regulating cognitive functions (such as memory and learning), they are also responsible for basic processes such as breathing, movement, and temperature control, to name a few. Eating well will support these functions, and ultimately overall health.

Brain food basics

But what exactly does a brain-friendly diet look like? In general, it includes eating fresh, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods contain key nutrients for brain health, including omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and K, according to Casey Kelley, MD, ABoIM, founder and medical director of Case Integrative Health.

Nutrition for Brain Health is about what you should also avoid. Your brain will thank you if you limit processed foods, which are high in saturated fats, trans fats, and added salt and sugar — nutrients that hamper brain health through inflammation and oxidative stress. Fortunately, to make things easier, these guidelines apply to the health of the brain and the body as a whole.

However, when it comes to brain health, there are some foods that are worth recalling. Read on to learn about the best foods for brain health, along with how much to eat), according to medical professionals.

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The best foods for brain health

leafy vegetables

Dr. Kelly says, “Leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are essential for keeping your brain in tip-top shape. That’s because these vegetables are packed with nutrients needed for optimal brain function. For example, leafy greens provide vitamin A, which helps nerve cells (neurons) ) helps regulate learning and memory.According to Dr. Kelly, they also provide vitamin C and vitamin K, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, respectively. This is key because oxidative stress and inflammation are two of the worst enemies of noggin. Rapid Regeneration: Oxidative stress involves the buildup of molecules Long-term oxidative stress and inflammation can promote the development of many neurological conditions, including depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, says Bertil.

To get maximum brain benefits, Dr. Kelly suggests eating at least 2 to 3 cups of dark leafy greens daily. This doesn’t have to be all about the authorities. Dr. Kelly recommends: “Add a cup of spinach to your eggs or mix some kale into a smoothie.” Another option is to throw a cup of vegetables into the soup or stew while it’s cooking. The greens will eventually wilt, adding a generous (and effortless) dose of nutrients and flavor.

Grain and vegetable scramble recipe

Grain and vegetable scramble recipe


Dr. Kelly says berries are teeming with flavonoids, the type of antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables their bright colors. “More than making your food pretty, flavonoids help improve memory,” she adds. According to a 2019 scientific article published in Frontiers in Aging NeuroscienceFlavonoids support communication between neurons (and thus cognitive functions) by suppressing cellular interactions that might mess with them. Additionally, as antioxidants, flavonoids protect neurons from oxidative stress, further protecting against neurodegenerative disorders.

“Try [eating] Dr. Kelly suggests ½ cup of berries, especially blueberries or strawberries, at least three times a week. “

Oats with strawberries and toasted almonds

Oats with strawberries and toasted almonds


If you aren’t already crazy about nuts, their impressive brain benefits will change your mind. According to Portell, nuts offer omega-3 fatty acids, the “good” fats that help maintain the structural integrity of your brain. It’s also required for proper blood flow, ensuring your brain has enough oxygen to function. Furthermore, nuts contain vitamin E, zinc, and selenium, all of which have antioxidant properties. Purtell says these nutrients “capture” free radicals in the body, thus keeping oxidative stress at bay.

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“The American Heart Association recommends 1.5 ounces of unsalted nuts at least four times per week,” Burtell says. (A 1.5-ounce serving size equals a small handful of nuts or two tablespoons of nut butter.) All types of nuts are fair game, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, and cashews are just a few of the delicious options available. Eat it as a simple snack or put it into yogurt, oatmeal, or homemade granola. Craving for something delicious? Use ground nuts instead of breadcrumbs to coat the protein, such as tofu or fish.

Easy Chicken Recipes - Crispy Almond Chicken with Rocca Salad

Easy Chicken Recipes – Crispy Almond Chicken with Rocca Salad

fat fish

Dr. Kelly says, like nuts, fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to supporting the structure of your brain, these fats help reduce the levels of beta-amyloid (a type of protein) in your blood. Dr. Kelly notes that high levels of beta-amyloid are linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but that eating plenty of omega-3s can help reduce risk. In fact, according to a 2020 study, eating fish may support cognitive processes, including memory and executive functions.

Dr. Kelly recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week. One serving is about 3 ounces, or ½ cup, of cooked fish, according to the American Heart Association. While you’re at it, choose options that are lower in mercury, suggests Dr. Kelly, and that include varieties such as salmon, tilapia, sardines, and pollock, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

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Tilapia with coriander with brown rice and vegetables

Tilapia coriander with brown rice and vegetables

dark chocolate

Good news, dark chocolate lovers! That’s sweet (but not very sweet) is high in the antioxidant flavonoids, which help support brain health by promoting the function (and regeneration) of neurons, according to a 2017 scientific review in Frontiers in Nutrition. They are also involved in the pathways, or cellular interactions, that protect said neurons from damage. What’s more, flavonoids reduce the risk of heart disease, and effectively support healthy blood flow to the brain, Portell points out.

Thanks to these mental benefits, a daily dose of dark chocolate will do you good. According to Purtell, the recommended serving is one ounce (or one square) of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa. “Be sure to check the food label for added sugars,” he adds. Eating large amounts of processed sugar can lead to oxidative stress, but chocolate with higher proportions of cocoa tends to be lower in sugar, Purtell explains.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups


Thanks to their rich antioxidant content, Portell says some teas — such as green, black, and lion’s mane tea — are remarkably beneficial for brain health, adding that the tea also contains L-theanine, “an amino acid that has been shown to increase focus and alertness.” Case in point: In a 2021 study of middle-aged and older adults, L-theanine improved performance on attention and memory tasks. Additionally, lion’s mane tea (a type of medicinal mushroom tea) can protect neurons in the memory-making part of the brain, Portell points out. And no wonder: According to a scientific article published in 2020, lion’s mane tea is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent brain-friendly beverage.

When it comes to tea, drinking a cup a day is a great way to get your brain-boosting nutrients. But for the best benefits, you can drink up to two or three cups a day, according to Portell. Keep in mind that green and black tea contain caffeine, so avoid drinking too much late in the day, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine. Lion’s mane tea is naturally caffeine-free, but always check the label to make sure the product is free of caffeine ingredients.

Iced green tea with ginger and mint

Iced green tea with ginger and mint

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