Top Nutrients That Boost Brain Power For Life
Many aging adults are resigned to losing cognitive function. But the sad thing is that it’s not necessary. In fact, you can increase your brain health with each passing day, no matter what your age. In today’s article I’m going to share with you proven ways that you can improve your brain health using nutrition. When you include these foods and nutrients in your diet regularly, you’ll be amazed to notice that your memory gets stronger, your focus improves, and your thoughts become clearer.
One of the top foods for brain health is the egg. It wasn’t so long ago that eggs were considered to be one of the most perfect foods a person could eat. Everyone from athletes to intellectuals to Grandma knew the incredible nutrition of eggs.
Then a big media hoopla scared everyone away from eggs. But as I’ve already explained in previous articles, eggs were blameless. They don’t cause heart disease. In fact, they are shown to reduce heart disease. And one of the nutrients in eggs that was demonized - cholesterol - turns out to be healthy, including for the brain.
As just mentioned, cholesterol, far from being harmful, is actually an essential substance in the body. And dietary cholesterol is an important nutrient for the brain. In fact, did you know that studies show that among aging adults those with total cholesterol around 200 mg/dL or even higher have the best brain function while those with the lowest values have the worst?
The brain contains 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol, and it is the first to suffer when cholesterol levels drop too low. As we’ve seen in previous articles, it’s the types of lipoproteins not cholesterol itself that are implicated in heart disease. And eggs improve the types of lipoproteins found in the body.
Another really important nutrient found in eggs is something called choline. Choline isn’t found in large amounts in too many foods. Eggs are by far one of the best sources.
Choline is incredibly important for brain health (and also for liver health). Unfortunately, most men don’t eat enough of the nutrient. You can ensure that you do by eating a couple of eggs daily.
Research shows that eating the right types of dietary fats can support optimal brain health as well. The brain itself is nearly 60 percent fat by composition. So the types of fats you eat are important for your brain.
Research is clear that monounsaturated fats from traditional sources improve brain health. The best sources are olive oil, avocado, and butter. Both olive oil and avocado also provide ample vitamin E, which research also shows is good for the brain - much more so when obtained from food than supplements.
Olive oil, apart from providing good fats and vitamin E also has important substances that also improve brain health. Polyphenols found in olive oil are shown to reduce inflammation in the brain and slow aging.
Butter, apart from supplying plenty of good fats, also provides other nutrients for the brain. High quality butter from grass-fed animals has higher levels of something called CLA as well as omega 3 fats that are shown to be good for the brain.
Coconut oil contains medium chain fats that have been shown to slow brain aging and also to possibly help prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
And finally, oily fish is a classic brain food. A large amount of the fat in the brain is a type of fat called DHA. And oily fish supplies a good amount of DHA. Although your body can convert some other types of fats from nuts and seeds into DHA, the conversion rate is very low. The best way to supply your brain with DHA is to eat oily fish.
Of course, as I’ve shared with you in previous articles, too much fish oil can have negative consequences. So don’t go guzzling fish oil to try and made yourself smarter. But do eat some wild (not farmed, since farmed doesn’t have as much good fats) salmon, herring, or sardines (all of which are low in mercury) once a week or so.
Special substances in plants called phytonutrients have also been shown to have brain boosting powers. To some degree they are found in all fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods. But some foods are worth making a special effort to eat reguarly.
Research has shown that nutrients in berries are protective of the brain. That includes strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Berries have been shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress, slowing aging. They also are proven to actually help improve learning capacity and motor skills.
Leafy green vegetables such as kale and beet greens also stand out as super foods for the brain. Studies show that people who eat lots of leafy green vegetables have better brain function. That could be because of the B vitamins, the phytonutrients, or the antioxidants. But whatever the reason, it’s good reason to eat more green vegetables.
Some herbs and spices also are great for brain health. Among them, turmeric, the orange spice that gives curry its distinctive color and flavor, is one of the best. Turmeric has been shown to actually be able to help reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
Finally, as I’ve shared with you before, dark chocolate (or cacao) is linked with heightened mental acuity among older adults. Milk chocolate candies don’t count because the actual chocolate content is too low and has been overly processed, removing some of the beneficial nutrients. So only dark chocolate - the darker the better - can help your brain.
Finally, though not a food, the B vitamins are also shown to be important for brain health. While all of the B vitamins are important for health, folate and B12 are the two that are of particular importance for brain health.
Folate, as the name implies, is found in leafy green vegetables (foliage). That’s one good reason to include leafy green vegetables in your daily diet. Folate is also found in beans, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, citrus, and tropical fruits.
Vitamin B12, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article, is crucial for brain health. Deficiencies in B12 can mimic or even cause Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, many adults are deficient in B12. Over 90 percent of vegans who don’t supplement with B12 are found to be deficient while 42 percent of vegetarians are. But some studies show that more than 40 percent of all adults may be low in the important nutrient. And with age the risk of deficiency increases.
Vitamin B12 is found only in meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. And in order to absorb the nutrient you must have adequate stomach acid and a healthy digestive system. So for anyone who doesn’t eat animal products or who has compromised digestive health, supplemental B12 is often necessary.
Eat Your Way Smarter
Following the advice in this article, you can support your brain health for life. There’s no reason that you have to resign yourself to mental decline. Instead, you can enjoy good brain health, memory, mood, and cognitive performance for decades to come. Nutrition is an important part of that.