Q: What are good foods for the brain? – J.S.
A: Blueberries: In animal studies, researchers have found that blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have also shown that diets rich in blueberries significantly improved both the learning capacity and motor skills of aging rats, making them mentally equivalent to much younger rats. It is recommended that you add at least one cup of blueberries a day in any form — fresh, frozen or freeze-dried.
Wild salmon: Deep-water fish, such as salmon, are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Other oily fish that provide the benefits of omega-3s are sardines and herring. It is recommended you eat a four-ounce serving, two to three times a week.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E and higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older. Add an ounce a day of walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed and unhydrogenated nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini. Raw or roasted doesn’t matter, although if you’re on a sodium-restricted diet, buy unsalted nuts.
Avocados: Avocados are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health. It’s a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. Healthy blood flow means a healthy brain. Hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities and avocados lower blood pressure, promoting brain health. Avocados are high in calories, so it is suggested adding just 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one daily meal as a side dish.
Whole grains: Whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain breads and brown rice can reduce the risk for heart disease. When you promote cardiovascular health, you’re promoting good flow to the organ system, which includes the brain. It is suggested to eat 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal or one slice of bread two to three times day.
Beans: Beans stabilize glucose (blood sugar) levels. The brain is dependent on glucose for fuel and since it can’t store the glucose, it relies on a steady stream of energy — which beans can provide. It is recommended to eat 1/2 cup every day of any bean.
Pomegranate juice: Pomegranate juice offers potent antioxidant benefits, which protect the brain from the damage of free radicals. The brain is hypersensitive to the effects of free radicals. Pomegranate juice usually has added sugar to offset its tartness. It is recommended to drink approximately two ounces a day, diluted with spring water or seltzer.
Freshly brewed tea: Two to three cups a day of freshly brewed tea — hot or iced — contains a modest amount of caffeine, which can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus and mood. Tea also has potent antioxidants, especially the class known as catechines, which promotes healthy blood flow. It is important that it is freshly brewed tea, not bottled or powdered.
Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, contains several natural stimulants (including caffeine) which enhance focus and concentration and stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. One-half ounce to one ounce a day will provide all the benefits you need.