These are the best foods to support brain health, from salmon to strawberries

Although there are some things we can’t control when it comes to brain health, such as the fact that older age and being female are leading risk factors for Alzheimer’s, it’s not all out of our hands. As Dr. Annie Fenn, physician, chef and author of Brain Health Kitchen: Preventing Alzheimer’s Through Food, tells Yahoo Life: “What we eat really matters for brain health, both now and in the future. The Global Council on Brain Health even includes ‘eating right’ as one of the six pillars of brain health, along with social connection, mental stimulation, stress management, physical activity and good sleep.

According to Fenn, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet is a brain-specific take on the Mediterranean diet designed just to see if it can lower Alzheimer’s risk—and it seems to be working. “Eating this way reduces the risk by up to 53%,” she says.

Research shows that eating healthy fats, carotenoids (which give many fruits and vegetables their colorful colors), vitamin E, and choline promote cognitive and brain health and delay brain aging. On the other hand, experts recommend limiting foods rich in saturated fats, such as fried foods and processed meats, as well as those rich in sugar, such as sweet drinks and sweets. A small study found that higher sugar intake in older adults was associated with twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, with each 10% increase in calories from total sugar increasing the risk of dementia by about 40%.

Maggie Moon, a brain health nutritionist and author of the new update The MIND Diet: 2nd Editionsays Yahoo Life, “Brain health is important at every age and stage, but when considering Alzheimer’s risk, the critical time to cement healthy habits is midlife, when there are 15 to 20 years of silent changes brain before signs of Alzheimer’s appear clinically. detectable.”

Although the brain is only 2% of our body weight, it consumes 20% of our calories and oxygen, she adds. As the most complex part and control center of our body, eating foods that protect brain health should be a top priority, according to experts.

Here are what experts say are the top seven foods that can help support your brain:

Strawberries are rich in flavonoids, anthocyanins and vitamin C – all of which provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. In a 2019 observational study, researchers found that eating strawberries at least once a week reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s by 34%.

Another study—this one a randomized clinical trial in the British Journal of Nutrition—found that healthy adults between the ages of 60 and 75 who consumed 2 cups of strawberries a day for 90 days improved learning and memory. “Two cups of each food may seem like a lot, but when you consider that there are only eight medium strawberries per cup, you can imagine how easy it would be to polish off 2 cups,” says Moon.

With strawberries at their peak ripeness in the summer, now is the perfect time to try adding them to your oatmeal, yogurt, and salads, or just enjoy them as a sweet snack. Moon recommends including a variety of berries to maximize benefits from a wide range of protective phytonutrients.

Cold-water fish is one of the best sources of the marine-based omega-3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A 4 oz. serving of cooked salmon provides more than 1,000 milligrams of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, far exceeding both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation of 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per day from seafood and the suggested 1,000 from the American Heart Association. milligrams per day for heart health.

Salmon is also “a surprising source of antioxidant carotenoids, which have been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.”

Moon adds that the FDA recommends salmon “as one of the top choices for minimizing mercury exposure from fish that provide brain-healthy omega-3s, vitamin B12, selenium, iron, zinc, iodine, choline, and also lean protein.” She also points to Alaskan salmon as a sustainable option, especially in the summer. The American Heart Association recommends including two to three servings of fatty fish in your diet per week.

“The simple act of eating nuts has the power to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and other risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Moon. Walnuts are the best nut source for the omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which protects the brain by repairing the blood-brain barrier—something that’s critical for keeping the brain healthy.

Just one-quarter cup of walnuts provides 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids—more than the recommended daily amount—and is loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, and B vitamins, all vital for brain health. “I throw them into smoothies, I love them in strawberry and arugula salads, and I can always count on them for a snack, too,” notes Moon.

“Eggs are one of the best and most readily available food sources of choline,” says Amanda Sauceda, a registered dietitian and creator of the Mindful Gut approach. Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a role in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports memory and brain health, especially in early brain development.

In the Framingham Heart Study offspring cohort, researchers found that among adults without dementia, consuming less than 215 to 219 milligrams of choline per day was associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, while those with higher consumption were associated with better cognitive and memory performance.

One large egg has 147 milligrams of choline. “Don’t skip eating the yolk, because that’s where most of the choline is,” advises Sauceda. According to the American Heart Association, one to two eggs a day can be part of a healthy diet.

Two large prospective studies ranked leafy greens as one of the best vegetables for brain health and found that consuming one to two servings of leafy greens per day slowed brain aging in adults by 11 years compared to those who rarely or never eat leafy greens. Many of the nutrients found in leafy greens, including folate, beta-carotene, the carotenoid lutein, and vitamin K (phylloquinone) have neuroprotective effects.

Keep in mind a serving of leafy greens is 2 cups raw or 1 cup cooked. “Baby arugula is one of my favorites because it’s easy to toss into salads and cooked dishes, adds an exciting peppery flavor, and is often found pre-washed, meaning there’s no need to don’t grab a handful and add it to your next meal,” he says. The moon.

Consuming higher amounts of whole grains, which includes barley, is associated with a lower risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s, according to the Framingham Offspring Cohort study. Another study found that African Americans, who made up about 60% of the 3,326 study participants, who ate more than three servings of whole grains per day experienced slower global cognitive decline and improved episodic memory (the ability to formed and recalled memories of specific past events). – a key predictor of Alzheimer’s risk – compared to those who ate less than one serving per day.

Moon suggests adding barley to your diet for its pleasantly chewy texture and incredible microbiome-boosting fiber, whether it’s whole or pearled. “That’s because the fiber, which is generally in the outer layer of the grain’s bran, is found throughout the barley grain,” she explains. Try substituting barley for rice, adding it to your soups or tossing it into salads for extra carbs, fiber and texture.

“A cup of green tea is an easy drink to drink for better brain health,” says Sauceda. It’s packed with antioxidant polyphenols, including EGCG, which are neuroprotective, inhibit Alzheimer’s-related proteins, and support a healthy gut-brain connection by promoting good gut bacteria. Green tea is also rich in the amino acids theanine and arginine, which studies suggest may have stress-reducing effects and slow brain aging when consumed daily.

Consider drinking 1 to 3 cups of green tea per day to reap the benefits. While Moon recommends a matcha latte made with soy milk or a roasted brown rice green tea for flavor, she points out that any green tea will offer brain health benefits.

Maxine Yeung is a board-certified nutritionist and health and wellness coach.

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