brain health
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Here Are the Top 5 Foods for Brain Health, According to a Doctor

What do you think promotes a better brain state?

There’s really no aspect of health more important than the state of your brain. A healthy brain means better mental health, clearer thinking, better decisions and an overall higher quality of life. This means that proactive strategies to protect and improve our brain wellness should be at the top of all of our lists. So how do we promote brain health? One of the best ways may be through our food choices. Here are 5 great selections when it comes to treating your brain with the nutrients it needs to thrive, according to  Dr. Austin Perlmutter, Internal Medicine MD, Author, Senior Director of Science and Clinical Innovation at Big Bold Health. Keep reading to learn more!

Here Are the Top 5 Foods for Brain Health, According to a Doctor

1) Omega-3 rich foods  

Take out the water and most of the weight of your brain is actually fat. Fats, especially fatty acids called omega-3s are among the most crucial molecules for your brain’s structure and function. They are especially important in the early developmental period of life, but it’s thought that getting adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may be a key to good brain health across the lifespan.  There are several types of omega-3 fats that can be found in plant and animal foods, but the most important for your brain may be EPA and DHA, which are specifically found in higher concentrations in fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, anchovies and sardines. DHA and EPA can also be consumed in supplement form. These products are generally derived from fish, but for vegans and vegetarians, it’s notable that there are algae-based version too.

canned fish
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2) Nuts and seeds  

Nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients like vitamins and minerals, as well as containing a range of fats and amino acids and fiber. With brain health increasingly being tethered to metabolic health, it’s especially notable that the studied effects of nut consumption range from better blood sugar control to healthier weight. Additionally, certain nuts and seeds (like walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds) are rich in a precursor for DHA and EPA called alpha-linolenic acid in addition to fiber. Since an imbalanced immune system (think chronic inflammation) is strongly linked to brain issues, it’s good to know that nuts and seeds are abundant in minerals like zinc and selenium which are needed for healthy immune function.

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3) Blueberries  

Berries have long been seen as nutrient-packed healthy food. But more recently, research has suggested that certain berries may be better than other when it comes to brain health. Packed with plant nutrients called polyphenols, blueberries appear to be at the top of the list when it comes to promoting brain health. In a review paper published in 2019, researchers examined the science connecting brain health and blueberry consumption. They specifically focused on the link between eating berries and cognitive function. When pooling their findings, they found an association between eating blueberries and a number of beneficial brain health outcomes for both children and older adults. One potential reasons for this connection is the high levels of plant nutrients called polyphenols found in blueberries.

Paleo Choc Blueberry Cake
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4) Herbs and Spices  

The use of culinary spices and herbs dates back thousands of years. Yet we now know that these flavorful food additions may do a lot more than just make our meals taste great.  Spices like cloves and herbs like oregano are absolutely packed with polyphenols. In fact, spices and herbs have more polyphenols per gram than any other food. The research linking herbs and spices to brain health has tended to focus on test tube models and animal data. Yet some epidemiological data would suggest a human connection between increased spice and herb consumption and rate of brain diseases. One example of this relates to the consumption of curcumin (a component of the spice turmeric). Lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease in India (over 4 times lower than in the United States) have been linked to increased turmeric consumption. When it comes to mood, consumption of curcumin has been shown to have a potential benefit in depression. And returning to the connection between metabolic health and brain diseases, it’s interesting that cinnamon may help people regulate their blood sugar.

Pumpkin ginger spiced granola
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5) Leafy greens  

Like other colorful fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens are a potent source of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols that are linked to brain wellness. Some great examples of this food group are kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and spinach. In a 2017 study that took place over almost 5 years, people who ate more leafy green vegetables were found to have dramatically better cognitive scores—equivalent to being 11 years younger in age. Leafy greens are also a key component of the MIND diet, one of the few diets that has ever been linked to better brain function.

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