Article by: Beth Blessing
Good nutrition and diet are both important for the proper development and aging of the brain. It is no secret that fat and cholesterol are key building blocks to a healthy brain, and antioxidants help protect the brain from lipid (fat) oxidation. With the brain being composed of two-thirds fat, it is important to provide the essential building materials through the diet so that brain cells can be built, and healthy functioning can occur. Here are some of the foods that should be incorporated into the diet to help create a healthy-fat head.
- Fish: Wild-caught Alaskan salmon supplies a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These fats promote optimal brain function by providing the building blocks for brain tissue. Salmon also contains phosphatidylserine, a phospholipid that supports memory, judgment and reasoning.
- Eggs and Dairy: Grass-fed dairy and eggs from pasture-raised hens provide a rich source of lecithin and choline, both of which are important brain nutrients. Lecithin and choline are similar to omega-3, in the fact; they are building blocks for brain and nerve cells.
- Butter, animal fats, and seafood: These foods provide the important nutrient cholesterol. It is abundant in the brain and nervous system, most dominantly in the myelin. Myelin is needed to send nerve impulses that make thinking, learning, and remembering possible.
- Nuts and seeds: Walnuts and flaxseeds are incredible when it comes to brain health. They are rich in the omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid. Nuts and seeds are a source of choline and a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E supplementation has shown improvements in memory and verbal skills in humans, and promotes normal cognitive function during the aging process. Focus on organic since the harmful chemicals from conventional farming gravitate towards the fat of the plant.
- Coconut oil: A healthy oil that provides many benefits including improving brain health. It contains medium chain fatty acids that are also found in high concentrations in breast milk and are incorporated into the brain matter. Coconut oil has been used to treat Alzheimer’s and dementia and improve overall brain health.
Antioxidants have been shown to help protect the brain from oxidative stress. They also have demonstrated the ability to improve both the learning and motor skills of aging animals. Focus on organic varieties to avoid the harmful chemicals that contribute to negative brain health. Some of the antioxidant superstars are:
- Red, blue, and purple berries
- Green and white tea. Decaf still contains the beneficial antioxidants
- Red wine, red and purple grapes and juice
- Dark chocolate
- Red or purple beets and cabbage
To read more about the nutrients found in colorful foods, see Eating a Rainbow of Color.