9 Foods to Eat for a Healthy Brain
October 28th, 2018
Taking care of your brain health is more important than ever. There are more than 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, and this figure is projected to increase to 131.5 million by 2050.1,2 And older adults are not the only ones at risk for cognitive disorders. More than one-third of graduate students report suffering from depression, and this trend is showing no signs of slowing down.3,4
Women are particularly affected by both dementia and depression.5 They are twice as likely as men to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and it is predicted that depression will be the leading cause of disease burden for women by 2030.6 However, general statistics show that our brains are not getting healthier, and our memory is beginning to falter earlier in life.7
Rising levels of stress from our hectic modern lifestyles can damage your gut, put you at a higher risk of chronic health issues, and disrupt your hormones.8,9 What’s more, stress can also take a toll on your memory, the physical structure of your brain, and your mental health.10,11 One of the top complaints I hear all the time from my patients is brain fog, a symptom that can develop alongside candida overgrowth, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid imbalance.
As such, your brain can act as a thermometer of gut health and chronic illness, allowing you to gauge how healthy you are overall. Fortunately, you can significantly reduce your risk of brain-related illnesses by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Certain foods can be very helpful for boosting cognition, mood, concentration levels, and fact recall, as well as preventing brain fog and mental decline. In this article, you will learn about 9 foods filled with nutrients that improve brain health and aid in the reversal of memory loss and cognitive dysfunction.
1. Coconut Oil
The main fuel your brain uses for energy is glucose. However, your brain can also run on other types of fuel, such as ketones, or ketoacids. These substances are produced by your body when fat is converted into energy, and have been shown to prevent brain cell death.12
Coconut oil contains around 66% medium/chain triglycerides (MCTs), which travel directly to your liver, where your body naturally converts them into ketones. Your liver then releases the ketones into your bloodstream so they can be transported to your brain.
A recent study showed that coconut oil improves cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s patients, making it useful for both the prevention and treatment of brain health issues.13
Blueberries are rich in a number of brain-boosting antioxidants. They are rich in gallic acid, which protects our brains from degeneration and stress, and polyphenols, which combat cognitive decline.
A study on the memory of healthy elderly individuals showed that a polyphenol-rich grape and blueberry extract improved age-related memory decline in those with the highest cognitive impairments.14
Another study suggested that school-aged children’s memory skills can also get better when they are given flavonoid-rich blueberry remedies.15 Flavonoids from blueberries have been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults, too, as well as improved neurocognitive function, lower symptoms of depression and better glucose control.16,17
Berries are one of my favorite foods because they are low in sugar and low-carb, making them a great option for diabetics and those dealing with Candida or SIBO. I keep a bag of frozen organic berries on hand at all times for adding to smoothies. Fresh berries are also a great snack all on their own!
Turmeric is a yellow spice used in curries and other traditional Indian dishes. It is anti-inflammatory and rich in the antioxidant compound curcumin.
Curcumin is a neuroprotective agent that is capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier, as well as inhibiting and breaking up the destructive beta amyloids that can accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.18 It can also boost memory and stimulate new cell growth in the brain.19
Turmeric root only contains 2 – 5% curcuminoids by weight and curcumin is notoriously NOT bioavailable. Your body may struggle to absorb enough of the active curcumin compound from culinary turmeric alone since you typically only use the spice in very small amounts.
Because of this, I also recommend taking a curcumin supplement for its ability to support a healthy immune response and its brain-boosting effects.
Adding celery to a juice is easy and adds a slightly salty flavor. I also like to enjoy celery sticks with homemade dips.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are good sources of choline, a B vitamin known for its ability to support brain development. However, broccoli is also anti-inflammatory thanks to its high levels of flavonoids and other phytonutrients, which support your body’s detoxification pathways.
Studies on choline indicate its ability to improve learning and memory, boost cognitive function and prevent age-related memory decline by supporting cells in an area of the brain called the hippocampus.21
Organic Greens contains organic broccoli sprout powder and organic sunflower lecithin, both of which are good sources of choline.
6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Real extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a true brain food. It’s also one of the reasons why a Mediterranean diet is recommended for optimum brain health. The oil helps combat amyloid-beta derived diffusible lignans (ADDLs), the proteins that induce Alzheimer’s and are toxic to the brain.22
Unfortunately, many olive oil products on the shelf are not 100% olive oil. They are cut with lesser quality oils such as canola and colza oils, so be sure to buy from trustworthy sources, and look for a Non-GMO Project and/or Certified Organic label.
EVOO contains polyphenols and antioxidants such as Vitamin E, which boost learning and memory and are capable of helping reverse age- and disease-related changes in the brain.23
The best way to add more olive oil into your daily routine is to use it to make a salad dressing or drizzle it into warm soups. That way, you can preserve the heat-sensitive antioxidants.
7. Leafy Greens
New research is telling us that daily servings of greens such as kale, Swiss chard and romaine lettuce can help keep dementia at bay. The study revealed that when adults eat just one serving of leafy green vegetables once or twice per day, they experience slower mental deterioration, even when they have a family history of dementia.24
Greens are also naturally high in magnesium, which relaxes the nervous system and calms the mind.
8. Fatty Fish
The human brain is 60% fat, and around 50% of that fat is composed of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is negatively linked to dementia.25 Certain cold water fish, including salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, and four 4-oz servings of fatty fish per week should provide optimal levels of omega-3 oil for your body and brain.
You might have rightful concerns about sourcing fish that is free of heavy metals. Heavy metals have been linked to significant damage to your brain.26 This is why I recommend looking for a high-potency omega-3 supplement for brain health that is completely free of these contaminants. The one I carry in my store has been 5-star certified by the International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS), the absolute highest attainable ranking for quality, purity, and freshness. You can also find a list of the Environmental Defense Fund’s best and worst seafood choices for health on its website.
9. Grass-Fed Meat
As you may know, I was a vegetarian for over twenty years. However, after I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, I radically changed my diet because I realized that I was missing out on some key nutrients that can only be found in animal products, particularly B12.
That’s why if you are interested in optimizing your brain health, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good quality source of animal protein in your diet. People with B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests and have a smaller brain volume than those with optimal B12 levels.27
Red meat such as grass-fed beef is an excellent source of this important vitamin, so be sure to add at least three servings per week to your brain-boosting diet. The Myers Way® emphasizes a range of high-quality grass-fed and pasture-raised meats to help you maintain optimal levels of B12 and other brain-supportive nutrients.
Protecting your brain health is more important now that it has ever been. However, with the right foods, you can combat cognitive decline, as well as prevent memory problems and depression, and keep your mind sharp long into your golden years.
For more ideas on how to use these foods as part of a general plan designed to help you prevent and reverse chronic illness, check out The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook.