Like a dietitian, I always tell people to think the brain as the brain behind almost everything – our thoughts, memory, focus, movements, breathing, heartbeat – and that certain foods can help make it stronger, sharper and smarter.
Our brain and diet too plays a central role in longevity. According to National Institute for Aging, what we eat can directly affect inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies – both of which can affect our risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
I talked to Dr. Uma Naidoo, nutritional psychiatrist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School and author of “This is your brain on food, “about what she eats to sharpen her memory, focus and overall brain health:
“Extra dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and cocoa flavanols that help maintain the health of brain cells,” Naidoo told CNBC Make It. “It also contains fiber to help reduce encephalitis and prevent cognitive decline. “
ONE 2020 survey looked at how dark chocolate and white chocolate can affect the memory of healthy young adults. Participants who received dark chocolate had better verbal memory performance two hours after consuming the chocolate compared to the group who received white chocolate.
Researchers suggested that this was due to the higher flavonoid content of the dark chocolate, “which can be acute improve cognitive function in humans. “
Extra dark chocolate must be at least 70% cocoa or larger according to Naidoo.
Just do not go overboard with the serving sizes, she says: “One meta-analysis suggests that the optimal amount of dark chocolate consumption for the health of our blood vessels – including those that supply blood to the brain – is around 45 grams per week. “
“Berries are loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals,” says Naidoo. “These nutrients help preserve memory, and the fiber content helps feed microbes in the gut to reduce encephalitis. “
She suggests choosing from an assortment of red, blue and black-colored berries. Strawberries, for example, are rich in flavonoids and can help slow cognitive decline; blueberries contain various types of flavonoids associated with prevents oxidative stress; and blackberries are good sources of antioxidants, Which one help brain cell health.
She typically goes for a half or single cup in her daily serving.
“Leafy vegetables are an integral part of a brain-healthy diet because they contain folate, which is a B vitamin that supports neurodevelopment and neurotransmitter function,” explains Naidoo. Folate deficiency has been linked to increased symptoms of depression as well as cognitive aging. “
Naidoo says her favorite green vegetables include:
- Dandelion greens
- Swiss chard
Fermentation involves the addition of food to a culture of microorganisms that then feed on the sugar in the food. This creates other products, such as lactic acid, that can generate gut-friendly bacteria.
“We have what’s called an intestinal-brain connection,” Naidoo says. “So when we eat fermented foods and increase our gut health, so can we improve our cognitive function. “
She likes to eat homemade kimchi as a snack with celery sticks, or combine it with salads for extra texture and flavor. Some other fermented foods that Naidoo recommends:
However, large amounts of fermented foods can cause you to become bloated. “If you feel uncomfortable, cut down on your intake until your gut and body adjust,” advises Naidoo.
You will also need to double check the food labels to make sure that what you are buying is actually fermented. Typically, you will see a label that mentions “living active cultures.”
Lauren Armstrong is a dietitian and nutrition coach. She was also a nutritionist for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Lauren received her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Western Michigan University and has written for several publications, including live Strong and Health day.
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