Eat the right foods and you will have the brain power for mental clarity and full learning capacity whether you are just out of school or in retirement. There really is such a thing as “brain food.” Information based on scientific studies has emerged over the years that shows how eating certain foods can protect your brain from damage and can preserve mental fitness. Here is a brief list of nutrients that nourish, sharpen and protect the brain.
Antioxidants in food clean up the free radicals that threaten brain health. Researchers say that by eating antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries, grapes, cherries, prunes and spinach, you can guard against memory loss and the loss of motor balance. Flavonoids are antioxidants that fight against oxidative stress and tissue damage to the brain. Flavonoids are found in blackberries, blueberries and red wine.
The yellow condiment turmeric, which is in curry powder, has attracted the interests of scientists. They find that turmeric may offer protection against degenerative diseases of the brain. Elderly people in rural India were found to have the least incidence of Alzheimer’s. It was suggested that the low incidence may be linked to their diet, which makes frequent use of curry powder.
2. The Omega 3s
Scientists are exploring the potential of omega-3s to bolster the capacity of the aging brain. There are no sure answers yet, but numerous studies corroborate the saying that fish is brain food. Omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish are just what the brain needs for proper functioning.
Scientists have suggested a link between omega-3s found in fish and protection against synaptic disconnections and against the onset of Alzheimer’s. Researchers also say that groups with the highest fish consumption have the lowest rates of depression.
Two servings a week of fish containing omega-3 fatty acids can deliver brain-power benefits. Choose fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring.
Chocolate is described as the “love” food that triggers feelings of romance and bliss. Scientists are discovering that chocolate affects the brain in additional ways. The powerful agent at work is dopamine. Chocolate releases dopamine, which imparts the feel-good sensation of love and happiness.
Dopamine also stimulates the brain to learn. According to researchers, how successfully you learn may be tied to the amounts of dopamine in your brain. To get all this power from chocolate, select the dark-chocolate variety with a high cacao content of at least 75 percent. Other sources of dopamine are almonds, avocados, bananas, lima beans and sesame seeds.
Folates are B vitamins that are essential for the normal functioning of the brain. Study after study has shown that low folate levels could place you at risk for heart disease and poor cognitive function. Loss of memory and depression are signs of low folate levels. Your best bets for folate includes spinach, turnip greens, citrus fruits, orange juice and chickpeas.
B vitamins in general are important for brain power. A recent British study indicates that the elderly may retard deterioration of the brain and even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s with the correct dosage of vitamin B. Good food sources for vitamin B are the same foods that are championed in a healthy, balanced diet: whole grains, fish, eggs, poultry and meats, dairy products, leafy greens and beans and peas.