We hear a lot about “heart-healthy” diets — undoubtedly due to the prevalence of heart disease in our population. But feeding our brains a healthy diet also matters.
More than 10% of Americans older than 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and millions more of all ages experience declines in cognitive function. It’s imperative to preserve brain function and memory for the quality of your life and the lives of those around you.
Fortunately, there’s a lot of overlap between brain-healthy and heart-healthy foods.
Here are a few of the best foods to add to or boost in your diet that support your neurological needs, along with your cardiologic ones.
This tops most brain food lists because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in species like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Omega-3s build nerve and brain cells and are crucial for learning and memory. They may also protect your brain against some forms of cognitive decline. Fish is the best provider of these vital nutrients, but if you don’t eat or like fish, other sources include chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts.
Dark Leafy Greens
Kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach and other examples bring generous helpings of vitamin E and K to the table along with lutein, beta carotene and folate, all of which have been shown to improve cognitive performance in animal and/or human studies. These are also good sources of ALA, one of the three types of omega-3 acids your brain and heart need for various activities.
The darker the berry, the better it is for your brain. Flavonoids are the compounds that give these berries and many other plant foods their color, and research also ties them to improved memory through reducing inflammation and damage by free radicals. Blueberries and blackberries have the highest concentration of these, but all berries contain high levels of them, as do citrus, broccoli and tea.