Your brain needs food, and not just the intellectual kind like brain games to keep you sharp. Your brain functions best when it gets the proper nutrition, just like the rest of your body does.
A growing body of research and organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Alzheimer’s Association support the notion that a diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids may help protect the brain.
So what foods should you eat? Read on to find out.
Top 10 Antioxidant-Rich Fruits and Veggies
“Eat more fruits and vegetables” is a common refrain. And if you’re going to make the effort, you might as well choose those that may help keep your brain healthy.
Researchers at Tufts University measured the antioxidant power of various fruits and vegetables. The top 10 in each category are:
Red bell peppers
Before you run out and stock up on prunes and kale, remember that variety is important, too. In general, the darker-skinned fruits and vegetables pack the most antioxidant punch.
Try to fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables, as shown in the ChooseMyPlate picture below. You can learn more about this meal planning method at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Use the link in the resource section at the end of this article.
It may help you get more fruits and vegetables into your diet if you think of them as ingredients in savory dishes, salads and snacks. Toss Brussels sprouts with raisins and onions in a little olive oil and roast them, for example. Or combine dried cherries with raw almonds—another brain-healthy food—for an easy snack. Get creative with ways to mix and match the foods you like.
Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish is the main source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Good choices include:
Try to have fish at least a couple of times each week to get a healthy dose of omega-3s. Grilling, baking or broiling is recommended over frying, which can add unhealthy fat.
Fish generally cooks quickly. Watch to make sure it’s not overdone, which can make it dry and less flavorful. Overcooked fish may tempt you to pour on the butter or other fat-laden sauces to make it more appetizing. Fish cooked properly needs little more than a splash of fresh lemon or a favorite herb to enhance the taste.
It’s best to get your nutrition from food, but fish may not be on your list of favorites. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from supplements, such as fish oil, which may offer some benefit. Discuss supplements with your doctor or a registered dietitian before you start taking them.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Medical nutrition therapy is provided by a registered dietitian or nutrition professional to help you create an eating plan that meets your health needs. Medicare Part B (medical insurance) may cover the service, which can include a nutritional assessment and one-on-one counseling.
Your doctor or other health care provider must refer you for medical nutrition therapy. You are also eligible if you:
- Have diabetes
- Have kidney disease
Have had a kidney transplant in the last 36 month