There are no cures for Alzheimer’s and other forms of age-related dementia. That’s why so many people are interested in doing whatever they can to keep their brains as healthy as possible well into old age. Studies suggest these foods and nutrients may help keep brains functioning at their best.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in such foods as salmon, flaxseed oil and chia seeds, appear to play a role in cognitive health. One study on mice showed that adding omega-3 to their diets resulted in improvement in several types of memory. Experts recommend eating omega-rich fish twice a week (salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna).

Leafy greens: Load up on spinach, kale, collards, and other leafy greens for the vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene they contain. Researchers reported that people who eat 1-2 servings of leafy greens per day had cognitive ability equal to people 11 years younger than them who ate no leafy greens. You can find the active nutrients in any brightly colored vegetable.

Walnuts and pecans: Research on mice found that adding walnuts to their diet helped to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and slow its progression. Rush University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center recommends consuming walnuts and pecans for their antioxidants. For best results, eat a serving of these high-energy nuts at least 5 times a week.

Beans or lentils: Include beans in your diet 3 times a week to reap maximum brain benefits. In addition to the phytochemicals and B vitamins your brain needs, they also regulate blood sugar to provide a stable supply of glucose, which fuels your brain.

Magnesium: Choose foods like avocado, edamame, bananas, or dark chocolate to get a magnesium boost. Studies on animals linked it to improved memory, neural plasticity, and neuron cell health.

Olive oil: Experts recommend swapping animal or dairy fats like butter for olive oil. Its monosaturated fat is a better choice for brain health than the saturated fat in butter. It also contains phenols, which are a powerful antioxidant.

Eggs and poultry: Your brain uses choline, a nutrient found in chicken, turkey, and egg yolks, to manufacture acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter brain cells need to communicate. Researchers have also linked choline consumption to improved memory. For best results, start getting plenty of choline during middle age.

Blueberries: “Blueberries are really the brain’s best friend,” Jennifer McDaniel, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said. They’re high in Vitamin E and anthocyanins, a compound that helps antioxidants and anti-inflammatories do their jobs. Adding blueberries to your diet may also increase the signaling between your brain’s nerve cells. A study on rats showed a diet rich in blueberries increased dopamine, which the brain uses in many ways, including controlling movement. Blueberries boost short-term and long-term memory and can help prevent cellular damage to the brain, which is seen in people with Alzheimer’s.


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Schroeder, M.O. (2016, Jan. 5). Food for thought: Eating for brain health in middle adulthood. U.S. News & World Report.

Bliss, R.M. (2007, Aug.) Nutrition and brain function: Food for the aging mind. USDA AgResearch Magazine, 55, 8-13.

Joseph, J., Cole, G., Head, E., & Ingram, D. (2009, Oct. 14). Nutrition, brain aging, and neurodegeneration. The Journal of Neuroscience, 29, 12795-12801. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3520-09.2009

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2015, March 25). Eating green leafy vegetables keeps mental abilities sharp. Newswise.

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