The brain is a very fascinating and marvelous organ within the body. The fact that you are reading this article (thank you, by the way), means that your brain is translating words into meaning and understanding.
As we get older, it is no surprise that things start to slip in the ol’ brain department. There are lots of things you can do to stay mentally sharp such as staying physically active, doing word search or puzzles, getting enough sleep, learning a new language, practicing good posture and having daily social connections. What about eating healthy? Well, of course! The benefits of eating healthy are endless, but let’s dig deeper.
What foods support and nourish our cognitive health? Let’s start with walnuts. The next time you look at a walnut, study what it resembles. If you are thinking a “brain” you are right. Walnuts are bursting with omega-3 fatty acids — which are known to fight inflammation in the brain and may also help boost our memories. Other great sources of omega-3 fats include flaxseed, avocado, and chia seeds. Be sure to include salmon, cod, tuna and pollack to the list as well; these fish are also low in mercury compared to other seafood sources. Green tea has a highly respected reputation for positively influencing our health.
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According to the Phytomedicine international journal, green tea has been found to lift moods and decrease anxiety. It also may improve memory function and support the length of attention span. These perks were found in those who drank brewed green tea. If you aren’t an admirer of green tea quite yet, not to worry because many of these protective benefits were also found in coffee beans. Hello morning coffee! Another food that has wonderful, and defensive properties for our brain health are berries. Blueberries, specifically, are packed full of antioxidants that act almost like a personal army protecting all parts of our brains, helping to keep us mentally sharp. Cherries, raspberries, strawberries and blackcurrants also have these shielding properties, so be sure to pick your favorite and enjoy daily, if possible. As we enter the winter season, berries are not as plentiful as they are in the spring and summer months. Frozen berries offer the same nutrients and nourishing perks as the fresh varieties, and you can stock up if they are on sale. Bottom line is that the foods we eat can have a very protective benefit on the brain, so snack well to nurture from the inside-out.
Andrea Wann writes a guest column for the Virginia Mountaineer. She works for the Virginia Cooperative Extension.