It’s back to school time! All month we’ll look at ways to power up you and your kids to make the most of your day. It’s a perfect time to make sure you’re serving “brain food” so that your kids are the class geniuses and you are too (even if it’s been years since you set foot in a classroom).
Let’s face it: who among us couldn’t use a little brain boost? Let’s take a look at some foods that are getting some press as good-for-your-brain and can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
According to Cynthia R. Green, author of Brainpower Game Plan, certain foods are nutritional powerhouses for keeping your brain healthy and functioning at its best. Some foods can even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. What I like about her list is that every single entry is healthy in other ways, including being good for your heart, anti-inflammatory and great for weight management.
Seafood like salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, and sardines are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, powerful and versatile nutrients that are essential for a healthy mind. About 40% of the fatty acids in brain cell membranes are DHA, one of the main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil.
In a 2006 study, researchers at Tufts University found that people who ate fish 3 times a week and had the highest levels of DHA in their blood slashed their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 39%.
Try Asian-Glazed Salmon. The slight sweetness makes it a hit with kids too.
Leafy green and cruciferous veggies
Make stir-fries with cabbage and bok choy. Try this recipe to roast broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. They’re filled with antioxidants like vitamin C and plant compounds called carotenoids, which are particularly powerful brain protectors.
While all antioxidants (from a variety of plants) are good for your brain, these cruciferous veggies are especially effective. A Harvard Medical School study of more than 13,000 women found that those who ate the most lowered their brain age by 1 to 2 years.
Avocado, oils, nuts, and seeds
These healthy fats all contain another important antioxidant: vitamin E. In one study, researchers found that people who consumed moderate amounts vitamin E — from food, not supplements — lowered their risk of AD by 67%. Try these yummy Oat Bars for breakfast or quick snacks.
Sweeten your brain-boosting diet with the dark kind (at least 70% cocoa); it contains flavonoids, another class of antioxidants that some research links to brain health. Other flavonoid-rich foods include apples, red and purple grapes, red wine, onions, tea, and beer.
As we’ve explored previously, this does not give us free reign to eat all the chocolate we might like to, otherwise the calorie count would quickly outweigh the benefits.
Go for Thai or Indian takeout; these cuisines often use the potent spice known to fight inflammation. Animal studies have shown that curry’s active ingredient, curcumin, actually clears away Alzheimer’s-causing proteins in the brain called amyloid plaques (though more research is needed in humans).
Fiber-rich oatmeal, oat bran, brown rice, and so on help stabilize blood glucose (sugar) levels, compared with refined carbs like white bread and sugary foods. Your body digests these simple sugars quickly, so you have a sudden energy spike — and subsequent plummet.
Since glucose is the brain’s main source of fuel, it’s important to keep levels steady. If you’ve ever tried a carb-restricted diet, you’ll remember feeling crabby and unable to concentrate. You can thank the lack of good-quality carbohydrates for that.
Every cell in your body needs water to thrive, and your brain cells are no exception; in fact, about three-quarters of your brain is water. A small Ohio University study found that people whose bodies were well hydrated scored significantly better on tests of brainpower, compared with those who weren’t drinking enough.