How do you feed your brain? For years researchers have been looking into how different foods and nutrients can help your brain, though in many ways this is still a growing field of study. Focus on different nutrients may vary based on your stage in life, but here’s some info I picked up while trying to learn a bit more about brain foods.
Specific nutrients can contribute to brain health through development early in life and protection later on. Omega-3 fatty acids get a lot of attention as a key nutrient in brain foods, such as fish. Omega-3s are key for brain development as well as protection and are an essential fatty acid, which means your body cannot produce it so it must come from your food.
Early research shows that apples contain quercetin, an antioxidant, and can help protect the brain from free radicals thereby reducing the potential for cognitive decline. Eat your apples with the peel on to get the quercetin out them! Antioxidants help protect your brain by reducing the effect of oxidative stress. Antioxidants are common in fruits and vegetables as well as tea, and even coffee.
Probiotics are beneficial bacterial cultures that colonize the gut, whereas prebiotics help to feed beneficial bacteria already present in your intestines. Researchers are considering how your bacterial gut populations may affect brain function and mental health with the hope their findings can be applied to disease prevention and management, though correlation versus causation may be difficult to prove.
Following certain diets may also be a great way to maintain brain health. The MIND Diet is a combination of the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH diet, developed to help people manage hypertension. The focus of the MIND diet is to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. This diet is rich in fruits (like apples), veggies, fish, and whole grains containing omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidant nutrients, and phytochemicals packing a punch for brain health. Early research suggests that traditional diets such the Mediterranean diet may help improve mental health as well.
The bottom line? Feed your brain by eating nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, and fruits and veggies that pack a lot of vitamins and minerals. Get them in recipes like Bagel Crunch, Pan Seared Salmon and Apple Salad, or Apple Cinnamon Cookie Energy Bites.