Best foods for brain health

Sunrise Senior Living  |  January 20, 2017

There are a number of factors that contribute to brain health.

Lifestyle factors, like how often you challenge your mental and physical well-being and how much sleep you get at night, impact your mind. But that's not all - according to Eat Right, an initiative by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, your diet also affects the way your brain works.

Eating for mental wellness is a crucial part of healthy aging. Here are a few of the best foods for fueling your brain and boosting your memory and cognitive function:

1. Dark, leafy greens
You know that eating an abundance of dark, leafy vegetables contributes to your digestive health and physical figure. But did you know the influence they have on the brain? According to a study by Rush University Medical Center, following the MIND diet - which consists mostly of leafy greens - can slow cognitive decline in aging adults with Alzheimer's and can even reduce one's chance of developing the disease at all. Consider eating more kale salads, or add a side of spinach to your meals throughout the week.

2. Berries
According to Eat Right, blackberries, blueberries and cherries are rich in anthocyanins and flavonoids that contribute to increased brain function and memory. Start your day off the right way with a bowl of berries for breakfast, or try one of our delicious smoothie recipes.

Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants that fuel a health mind.Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants that fuel a health mind.

3. Fatty fish
Omega-3 fatty acids, especially docosahexaenoic acid - DHA - make a positive impact on the brain when consumed. Andrea Diancoli, RD, registered dietitian and past spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics said that DHA in particular can improve memory.

"DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain," she told Eat Right. "It makes sense that if you have higher levels of DHA in the blood, then the brain will operate more efficiently."

Salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Try one of our healthy salmon fillet recipes for a family get-together.

4. Walnuts
Much like fatty fish, walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. But they're also full of B vitamins, vitamin E and essential amino acids that protect the brain and keep the mind sharp, according to wellness coach Ann Kulze, M.D.:

"Walnuts also offer a hefty dose of omega-3 fats along with especially potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant compounds called polyphenols," she told Men's Fitness. "For many reasons, the brain is uniquely vulnerable to damaging oxidation and inflammation."

The next time you're considering a snack, reach for a handful of walnuts or chop them up and throw them in a cup of Greek yogurt.

5. Oats
According to Shape magazine, your brain gets most of its fuel from glucose, which derives from carbohydrates. Whole-grain oats are a healthy option that can keep your mind sharp and increase your focus for long periods, due to how long it takes for your body to break them down. For a mind-healthy snack, consider a bowl of oatmeal loaded with blueberries and walnuts.

6. Lentils
Loaded with B vitamin folate, lentils have a reputation for strengthening brain power. Folate also decreases amino acid levels, which often contribute to impaired functioning of the mind. To reap the benefits of the powerfood, try this healthy lentil soup recipe from Food Network.

Health, Fitness & Wellness Categories:

Have Questions About Memory Loss?