Food for Thought: Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a time devoted to increasing awareness about cognitive function and Alzheimer’s disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration often occurring in middle or old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain. As of 2018, an estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. This number includes approximately 5.5 million people age 65 and older, and about 200,000 citizens under 65 with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

If your family has a long history of this dreadful disease, modifying your diet is one of the things you can do to reduce your risk.

Here are a few delectable and nutritious food options that will keep your brain running in tip-top shape.

  1. Berries and Cherries

Sweet and tart fruits such as berries and cherries contain the flavonoid anthocyanin, which protects the brain from free radicals and lowers the risk of many types of cancer. These natural sweeteners also possess anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants such as vitamin C, which is responsible for quenching different kinds of radicals and can regenerate other antioxidants.

  1. Nuts 

People say you should eat nuts while studying for a very good reason. Believe it or not, our brains are composed of 60% fat. That being said, it should come as no surprise that our minds require fat to work properly. Since nuts are an excellent source of HDL or healthy fats, eating them can help keep the brain healthy and functioning correctly.

  1. Wild Salmon

Salmon is  incredibly rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which is vital for brain function. People whose diets contain daily omega 3s have 26% less risk of developing brain lesions that cause dementia or Alzheimer’s (compared to those who do not). Aside from salmon, you can also get your healthy dose of omega fatty acids from flax seeds, olive oil, or by taking a quality omega-3 supplement. Nonetheless, these fatty acids can aid the brain in staying healthy.

  1. Avocados 

Although avocados are a type of fatty fruit, it is a monounsaturated fat that contributes to healthy blood flow — and a healthy blood flow means a healthy brain.

Avocados can also assist in lowering your blood pressure. Since hypertension is a significant risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, lower blood pressure should lead to better brain health.

  1. Dark Chocolate

Let us end this list on a high note by mentioning the good stuff. Dark chocolate has tremendous antioxidant properties and contains several natural stimulants. Caffeine is one of these stimulants, which not only enhances your ability to focus and concentrate, but also stimulates the production of endorphins to improve your overall mood.

However, just because dark chocolate provides great benefits to your health does not mean you should eat as much of it as you want. In fact, an ounce of dark chocolate a day will provide all the benefits you need. This is one superfood where more is not better. Thus, remember to eat in moderation.

Think Before You Eat

Berries, cherries, peanuts, salmon, avocados, and dark chocolate have two things in common: The first being the ability to promote better brain health, the second being that they are deliciously addicting. The trick to finding the right balance between eating too much and too little fat is to opt for whole, unprocessed food sources of healthy fats and eat them in moderation. By choosing healthy fats, you not only ensure optimum brain function for years to come, but you also help diminish your risks of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even brain cancer.

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