Eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables has long been associated with reduced risks of dementia and sharper cognitive function in old age. Blueberries contain particularly high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which reduce inflammation and help guard the body (and brain) against the effects of stress.
In one study conducted at the University of Exeter, 26 healthy, older adults were observed and given a series of cognitive tests. Twelve of them were given concentrated blueberry juice to drink every day, and 14 consumed a placebo. Over a 12-week period, the blueberry juice group shows increased blood flow to the brain and increases in brain activity associated with the tests. The placebo group remained constant.
Try some blueberries in my delicious Triple Berry Antioxidant Blast Smoothie.
In clinical studies, a lack of vitamin E in the diet is associated with poor memory, even when other factors like age, education, and income are considered. Eating a diet that includes regular servings of nuts provides the body with plenty of vitamin E, as well as healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. A study performed by the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities found that feeding mice regular servings of walnuts increased their memory and performance on cognitive tests, while simultaneously decreasing anxiety.
Include a ¼ cup of unsalted nuts to your daily intake. Take care to exercise moderation with this snack, as nuts are calorie-dense.
3. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Salmon, anchovies, mackerel, and other oily fish contain an essential fatty acid called DHA, which is one of the primary structural components of the brain. It assists in producing serotonin, managing stress, and protecting against memory loss. Oily fish also contain high amounts of the substance 2-dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE). DMAE strengthens cell membranes and guards against the break down that causes premature aging.
4. Citrus Fruits
These fruits contain high amounts of vitamin C. Aside from keeping the immune system strong, vitamin C also defends the brain against oxidative stress. Some studies also suggest that vitamin C deficiency may contribute to cognitive decline in the elderly. Your body cannot produce vitamin C on its own, it must be consumed through food. Get plenty of this antioxidant with citrus fruits, broccoli, red peppers, and kale.
Try my Immune-Boosting Smoothie, which contains 336% of your daily value for vitamin C.
Too much of a particular amino acid, called homocysteine is linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Eating a diet with sufficient amounts of B vitamins, including folic acid, B12, and B6, is associated with lowered levels of homocysteine. In one study, participants received high doses of these B vitamins over the course of two years. At the conclusion of the study, those who consumed the B vitamins had significantly less brain shrinkage than those who received a placebo, particularly in the areas that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Eggs are a good source of these important vitamins.
This food contains high levels of a potent antioxidant called lycopene. Like all antioxidants, lycopene prevents the cell damage caused by free radicals. It is also particularly effective at regulating genes that affect inflammation and brain growth. In fact, patients with Alzheimer’s often have low levels of lycopene in clinical tests. This antioxidant is more easily absorbed by the body when the tomato is cooked, so try sautéing some with olive oil, or make an unsweetened tomato sauce or soup. As an added health bonus, diets rich in tomatoes are also associated with lower risks for cancer and stroke.