A fear for many people as they get older is that they are going to be physically able, but their mind will fail them.
By the time you get to your 40s, chances are you’re already walking into rooms with absolutely no idea what you came there for. Of course, what’s going on is multi-layered – forgetfulness and brain fog can be caused by so many different things (many of which can be helped by changing your diet) but if you’re worried about your brain health read on & find out what you can do….
The brain is a complex organ, which is capable of regenerating (so all is not lost!!), but did you know that 60% of the dry weight of the brain is fat (mostly DHA).
Low fat diets or eating the wrong sorts of fats can starve our brain of the very nutrients it needs to function effectively. Excessive sugar consumption and stress can damage the neurons in the brain. Even conditions, like Type 2 diabetes or poor digestive health have been linked to failing brain health.
All this can feel very scary, but the good news is that whatever your age – there are foods that scientists know are excellent for keeping the brain healthy and preventing the downhill slide. I’m focusing on the ‘good fats’ your brain needs in this newsletter, and the other nutrients it needs in part 2.
So what are the ‘good’ fats needed for great brain health?
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Researchers think that the abundance of antioxidants (which prevent damage to all cells including in the brain) in Extra Virgin Olive Oil are what makes this food one of the best brain foods. Studies showed that using up to 1L of Olive Oil a week (yes – that much is really good for you!) in cooking, salad dressings, on bread or foods (instead of butter) had the best effect. It also increases neurotransmitters that play an important role in learning and memory.
I could dedicate an entire newsletter to why I love them but suffice to say that in this context you should eat them because they are chock-full of nutrient-dense monounsaturated fats, which support blood flow to the brain. They’re also helpful in reducing blood pressure, and high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline.
Nuts and seeds
A study a few years back found that people with a diet that contained generous amounts of nuts and seeds was linked to better brain function in old age. Instead of reaching for the sugary snacks when the slump strikes, give nuts a try. A scientific review in 2014 found vitamin E might help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The nuts and seeds containing the highest levels of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds.
Pumpkin and sesame seeds are high in zinc, which helps regulate communication between brain cells.
Eggs are a super-duper brain food as they are packed with the B vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, and research shows these vitamins can prevent your brain from shrinking. They contain good saturated fats and choline, a nutrient that fends of cognitive decline in old age.
Oily fish, particularly salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring have significant amounts of the omega-3 fats (DHA & EPA) that help build membranes around every cell in the body, including brain cells, where they improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. A few years ago, a study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain.
Chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts
Are all good vegan sources of omega-3 fats and are really vital to have in your diet every day if you don’t eat oily fish 2-3 times a week.