We all need the reminder to choose healthier nutritional options from time to time. Most of us know that fresh fruits and vegetables are healthier than potato chips and candy bars but sometimes convenience and taste win that particular battle!
The good news is that it is always possible to switch to a healthier diet — and the even better news is that certain foods that are healthier for our brains are very easy to incorporate into our diets.
Here are some brain smart nutrition ideas to try:
- Green Tea
According to this Harvard Medical School article, tea, when incorporated into a healthy diet, may help to regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, or improve cholesterol. This, in turn, supports brain health.
Tea, especially green tea, contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants work to neutralize oxidants, which contribute to cardiovascular disease.
The caveat to this (the article mentioned above warns us against this) is that adding milk and sugar may actually be detrimental to our health. If you’d like to try adding green or black tea to your diet, choose high-quality organic tea and brew a hot cup of tea without any other additives.
Berries are high on the list of brain smart foods. According to a study cited in this UNC Nutrition Research Institute article, daily consumption of wild blueberries over six months can improve brain health and the ability to process information.
While blueberries have been getting a lot of attention, strawberries have their own set of significant benefits. This article cites a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and discusses the potential of the anti-inflammatory properties of pelargonidin present in strawberries to decrease overall neuro-inflammation.
3. Apples, bananas, oranges
As described in this Cornell article, a Cornell study published in the Journal of Food Science found that antioxidants in the extracts of apples, bananas, and oranges prevented oxidative stress-induced toxicity in neurons. According to Cornell University professor, Chang Lee, unpeeled fresh apples as well as fresh bananas and oranges may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders; he has also found plums, grapes and cherries to have strong antioxidant activity.
So maybe that “apple a day” age-old advice has an evidence-based origin story!
4. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, as detailed in a Harvard article here, help with the prevention of the thickening of carotid arteries. This is significant because carotid arteries supply blood to our brains.
This grouping of vegetables includes broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, and collard greens. The reason for the “cruciferous” adjective is that their flowers are formed in the shape of a cross.
In a Tufts School of Nutrition article here, the author details optimal cooking methods: Stir-frying, steaming, and microwaving are preferable to boiling as more of the valuable nutrients are retained. Chopping up cruciferous vegetables raw and eating them in a salad or with a dip is another healthy way of obtaining more nutrients from these vegetables.
Quercetin is a dietary flavonoid found in foods like lightly cooked onions and apple peels and may serve to support brain health. Onions are also a prebiotic, which may help with maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. In addition, raw onions also have sulfur compounds that may help to lower blood sugar and reduce the production of unhealthy cholesterol in the body, as described here.
Whether you choose to add lightly cooked or raw onions, or a combination of both, to your diet, it is evident that they are good for us despite their pungent odor.
Walnuts activate a region of the brain that has to do with appetite control, as detailed in this Harvard Medical School article. They are also the only tree nut that are a source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. This may play a role in brain health, as discussed in a review of the CARDIA study here.
If you tend to reach for peanuts, try substituting walnuts instead.
All the foods on this list are by no means a magic bullet for brain health; however, if we add them to a healthy diet and lifestyle, it looks like current research shows that this may have a positive effect on our brains.
These just may be worth trying as long as you don’t have allergies and have that all-important thumbs up from your doctor, especially if you’re dealing with chronic conditions and possible contraindications with current medications.
Note: The content on apeacefultree.wordpress.com, regardless of date published, is not intended to be a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. Please do talk to your doctor prior to making any changes pertaining to your health.