As we age, changes occur in our entire body, including the brain. With age, connections between brain cells weaken, resulting in less efficient communication between cells. Memory loss is a distinctively identified sign of an ageing brain. However, the process of brain ageing varies amongst individuals.
The Majority of people go through ‘normal’ ageing while some go through ‘abnormal’ brain ageing. According to the National Institute on Ageing, in the case of normal brain ageing, conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed decline gradually over time. However, with abnormal brain ageing, cognitive losses are typically acute.
Brain ageing is inevitable; however, some things can be done to stave off the effects:
- An active lifestyle facilitates oxygen transport to the brain which helps maintain functionality of an ageing brain.
- Challenging the mind by trying out new activities also helps lessen the effects of brain ageing.
- Maintaining a healthy diet plays a vital role in improving cognitive abilities and lessens the severity of age-related effects on the brain.
Foods That Keep Your Brain Young
Human brains are made up of nearly 60% fat – therefore, the intake of essential fatty acids from omega-3 rich foods protect the brain against many disorders such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a list of ten super foods that help prevent brain ageing.
Research shows that consumption of walnuts improves cognition among older adults. Walnuts are a rich source of polyunsaturated fat and are the only nut that contains a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Walnuts also have a high antioxidant content which fights against the free radicals. This, in turn, protects against brain ageing.
A quarter cup of walnuts a day provides almost 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) needed by the brain.
This study shows that eating green leafy is related to slower cognitive decline up to the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age.
Leafy greens keep the brain young because they are a rich source of Vitamin E. This helps fight chemicals produced by the body that have the potential to damage cells. Also, eating vegetables with salad oils (healthy fats) aids the body in absorbing Vitamin E.
The consumption of one serving per day of green leafy vegetables may help in averting cognitive decline with ageing.
Crab meat not only tastes great but is also rich in vital brain nutrients. Crab meat may protect the brain because it provides, phenylalanine, an amino acid that play a significant role in the production of brain stimulating neurotransmitters. Consuming crab may protect against various mental disorders and degenerative brain diseases.
Beans are brain’s best friends. In cultures, where the consumption of beans is high, the population enjoys lower rates of dementia and better overall brain health. Beans have high levels of vitamin B6 which is essential for the production of brain cells.
Kidney beans and black beans have the highest Vitamin B6 and Folate content of all the beans.
Ginger reduces inflammation in the brain. Gingerol, an anti-inflammatory compound, which is present in ginger is what does the magic.
A study in ‘The Journal of Life Sciences’ found that ginger also protects against free radicals which are present in the human body. These free radicals promote ageing and are a potential threat to brain health.
Grapes contain resveratrol compound that offers remarkable brain protection. The consumption of grapes boosts blood flow to the brain; thereby, slowing the effect of ageing. Grapes also reduce inflammation which usually occurs as people age.
Blueberries are powerful brain protectors. Research shows blueberries prevent age-related memory loss. Blueberries are rich in flavonoids that guard the brain against free radical damage.
Consumption of blueberries on a daily basis also increases the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a ‘feel good’ brain chemical that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Evidence indicates that people with dementia or Parkinson’s have low levels of dopamine.
Eating half a cup of blueberries a day reduces the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Strawberries, like blueberries and blackberries, contain antioxidants known as polyphenols. These compounds minimize cognitive deficits and decrease inflammation which in turn preserve brain function. Polyphenols are neuroprotective, meaning that they maintain the bond between neurons, which are responsible for the efficient communication of information.
Strawberries also contain specific flavonols (quercetin and kaempferol) that are associated with a slower decline of cognitive function in older age.
Olives and Olive Oil
Olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats play a vital role in protecting the outer membranes of brain cells. These fats also guard energy producing cells that help fuel the brain.
Avocados also contain monounsaturated fats and promote blood flow to the brain. A healthy blood flow ensures a healthy brain.
Avocados are also a rich source of Lutein. The human body cannot produce Lutein on its own, so it must be obtained through the diet. A study in ‘Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience’ shows that older people who consume a Lutein-rich diet show brain responses similar to younger populations.
What all these foods have in common is that they are natural, whole foods. If we eat a balanced diet full of a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats that is the best way to ensure a healthy and well-functioning brain in older age. Stay away from refined and processed foods that may fill you up, but provide very little nutritional value. As you know, from reading this article, natural foods are high in beneficial compounds such as antioxidants, polyphenols, essential fatty acids, and necessary vitamins and minerals. If we don’t fuel our body and brain properly, we can’t expect them to function at their optimum.