With kids back to school either in the classroom or remote learning and adults running in every direction, our brain health is more important than ever. One way to protect our brain is by adding brain-boosting foods to our diets!
This blog is diving into foods for brain health. Studies continue to provide evidence of the impact of nutrition on brain development and improved cognition. We wanted to put together a list of foods to help you and your family keep memories sharp and brains functioning!
What are good foods for brain health?
The Mediterranean diet is often viewed as a dietary pattern that promotes brain health. Whether you are following the Mediterranean diet or another eating approach, the key is consuming a variety of foods and nutrients. We often focus on boosting intake of one specific food or nutrient for health benefits. Especially when it comes to brain health. Instead, let’s focus on enjoying plates filled with a variety of produce and other nutrient-dense foods to prolong cognition.
A plate filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables and omega-3 rich foods can support brain function and memory!
Vegetables contribute folate, lutein and flavonoids to our diets. All essential nutrients to protect our brain and preserve memory. Aim for a rainbow of deep colors on your plate. More color = more nutrition!
Ways to boost colorful vegetables on your plate:
- Mustard greens – use as the base for a salad, swap in place of lettuce on sandwiches, sauté with other veggies for a stir fry
- Broccoli – bake in the oven, steam in the instant pot or roast on the grill to create a tasty side dish
- Spinach – blend into smoothies, toss into a salad or mix into a casserole dish
- Asparagus – roast and top with cheese, grill and season with lemon juice or bake and spice it up with red pepper flakes
- Beets – roast and add to a salad, soup or sandwich
Fruits provide quercetin, vitamin C, and polyphenols to our diets. These nutrients have been shown to improve memory. Just like veggies, aim to eat a rainbow of colors. Each produce color offers a unique profile of nutrients to keep our memories sharp.
Ways to boost brightly colored fruits on your plate:
- Blueberries – add to a fruit salad, mash into guacamole or freeze to use as ice cubes
- Cherries – enjoy whole as a dessert, blend into a smoothie or chop up for a fruit salsa
- Oranges – add to a fruit tray, incorporate into a muffin or add to a cocktail/mocktail
- Pomegranates – toss on top of a salad, add to a yogurt parfait or blend into a drink
- Apples – add to a charcuterie board, bake into a dessert or dip into a fruit dip
Omega-3 Rich Foods
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and cognitive function. Essential means that omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies – we must add omega-3 rich sources into our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in 3 forms – DHA, EPA and ALA. Fatty fish provides DHA and EPA while plant-based sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts provide ALA. All omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits so it is important to get these good fats incorporated into your meals.
Ways to boost omega-3 foods on your plate:
- Salmon – serve blackened or grilled on top of a salad, rice or roasted vegetables
- Mackerel – pan fry, grill or smoke to enjoy as a main entree at any meal
- Sardines – enjoy from the can, add to a fresh salad or add to a sandwich or wrap
- Seeds – add flax seeds to smoothies, chia seeds to yogurt or pumpkin seeds to salads
- Walnuts – blend into smoothies, incorporate into a pie crust or make a trail mix
Other Ways To Protect Cognitive Function:
- Engage in physical activity – Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) recommendations on how to be physically active while socially distancing.
- Eat dark chocolate – Studies continue to show the impact of cocoa flavanols on cognition.
- Stimulate the brain – read, complete puzzles, play games, draw or paint.
- Sleep. Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) recommendations for the amount of sleep each night based on age groups.
Have additional questions regarding nutrition and brain health? Comment below!
Disclaimer: The health information shared by The Produce Moms is meant for education to inspire you and your family to eat more produce. Before making any lifestyle or diet changes, consult your physician.