In the past decade, scientists have found significant evidence that dietary nutrients can affect certain systems in the body that control mental functioning. A diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, may support cognitive processes and help maintain brain health. On the other hand, deficiencies in certain nutrients — such as iron and vitamin B12 — can seriously impair cognitive functioning.
In seniors, scientists believe that careful attention to diet may provide some protection from problems with the brain that can negatively impact cognition and memory. By consuming the following “superfoods,” seniors may be able to ward off brain deterioration and cognitive decline.
Cold-water fish, nuts and seeds
Salmon and other fish like mackerel, sardines, bluefish, halibut, herring, sturgeon, lake trout and tuna contain a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, beans and certain types of nuts, flax seeds and healthy oils — such as olive oil — also contain omega-3s. Doctors recommend getting omega-3s primarily from food rather than from supplements and consuming fish high in this nutrient two or three times weekly.
Dark-skinned fruit, including berries
Berries and other fruits with rich-looking, dark skins are high in antioxidants. Fruits with the highest nutritional punch include blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, oranges, red grapes, cherries and plums.
Scientific research indicates that eating these fruits positively affects the brain and can help ward off memory loss and other changes related to aging. Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that berries block inflammation and provide protection to brain cells.
Scientists have found a strong link between leafy green vegetables — including spinach, turnip greens, kale and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli — and reduced levels of cognitive deterioration in older adults. Regularly consuming fruits and vegetables is linked with a reduced risk of dementia and cognitive decline associated with age.
Nutrition experts say avocados work as well as blueberries for promoting the health of the brain. While avocados are fatty, the fat is monounsaturated — which can contribute to healthy blood flow that helps keep the brain operating at peak capacity.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil includes oleocanthal, a substance that assists in production of key enzymes and proteins that break down the amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Chocolate and coffee
Just because food is decadent doesn’t mean it can’t also be good for you. Dark chocolate contains natural stimulants that enhance concentration. It also includes powerful antioxidants, scientists say. Up to an ounce daily can provide you with optimal benefits. The caffeine in both chocolate and coffee are believed to help keep memory impairment related to aging at bay.
Oatmeal, brown rice and other whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, scientists say. By protecting cardiovascular health, whole grains also promote healthy blood flow throughout the body, which also helps the brain.
Freshly made tea
Two or three cups of tea per day can help enhance focus, memory and mood, researchers note. Tea also contains strong antioxidants that help promote healthy flow of blood. For maximum brain-boosting, tea must be freshly brewed, but it can be drunk either hot or iced.
For a healthy brain, take a look at your plate
To help ward off dementia and maintain cognitive function as you age, consider what you put on your plate at each meal. By including healthy foods like cold-water fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables, you can boost your chances of keeping your brain healthy for many years to come.