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What You Should Eat for Your Brain Health

by Skye Sherman - June 27 , 2022


Photo Credit: by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA, Pexels.com

Did you know that June is brain awareness month? But no matter the month, there’s never a bad time to evaluate whether or not you are keeping your noggin in tip-top shape! On top of taking care of your mental and emotional health, you should be making sure that your daily diet supports your brain’s health and wellness.

It’s important to remember that the foods you consume become the building blocks for your brain and neurotransmitters. What you eat (or don’t eat) can directly affect how well your brain works, which in turn affects everything.

Below, we take a look at what you should eat for brain health, including a new trending superfood, and foods you should avoid if you don’t want to put stress on your brain through your diet.

Top foods to boost brain health

Caring for your brain starts with what you put in your mouth. There are many foods that will help to nourish your brain, and many that can harm brain health. On top of eliminating stressors from your life, eating a brain-boosting diet can make you feel better all around.

One of the top foods you can eat for brain and overall health is dark, leafy greens like spinach, arugula, and kale. These highly nutritious foods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. And did you know that spinach is even on the list of plant foods that have antidepressant properties?

A study published in the World Journal of Psychiatry found that spinach is near the top of the list of “which foods are the most nutrient dense sources of nutrients demonstrated by the scientific literature to play a role in the prevention and promotion of recovery from depressive disorders.” Obviously, this means that spinach is good for your brain health but can also help boost your mental health, too!

In the same vein, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are another win for your brain. Not only are these vegetables linked to lower instances of depression, they can help improve cognition as your brain ages. They are rich in nutrients such as vitamin E (which protects cells from free radical damage), vitamin K, beta carotene, and folate.

An article published by Northwestern Medicine explains, “These properties have been suggested to prevent or delay cognitive decline in the aging population. Vitamin K has been shown to sharpen memory. Meanwhile, beta carotene helps slow down cognitive decline. Their antioxidants can also protect the brain from toxic free radicals.”

Fish is another top food for brain health, especially fish with high levels of Omega 3 fats. These include salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found:

● “Fish and n-3 PUFA consumption may prevent depressive disorders.

● Fish and n-3 PUFA consumption were associated with lower risk of depression.

● A significant decreased risk was found for 50 g/d intake of fish.”

Want to up your healthy fat intake even further? Eat a handful of nuts! These super nutritious snacks are rich in nutrients from Omega-3 fats to minerals, magnesium, and vitamins. And higher nut consumption has been linked to, you guessed it, a lower risk of depression.

A study published in Nutrition Reviews reports, “higher nut consumption could be associated with a lower risk of depression, fewer depressive symptoms, and better mood state in the general population.”

Of course, food isn’t the only determining factor when it comes to depression and major depressive disorder. You may be eating an extremely healthy, balanced diet and still struggle with depression. If this is the case for you, you should talk to a doctor about your options. A medical professional may recommend treatment with a prescription medication such as Wellbutrin or Trintellix. Combined with a healthy, brain-nourishing diet, these drugs can be a major help to those struggling with depression.

Have you heard of Himalayan tartary buckwheat?

Certain foods may be especially nourishing to your brain, and recent research suggests that Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat could be the next trending superfood for brain health and beyond.

According to MindBodyGreen, “Himalayan tartary buckwheat (or HTB, for short) is a sibling of the buckwheat plant. Contrary to what the name may imply, this crop is a seed, not a grain—and, interestingly enough, it’s closer to the rhubarb and sorrel family of vegetables than wheat. As such, it’s gluten-free, rich in phytonutrients, and contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.”

The article also explains that Himalayan tartary buckwheat contains an antioxidant called rutin, which may be especially good for brain health. The article reports, “Studies suggest this phytonutrient may protect against neurodegenerative diseases, by fighting free radicals and oxidative stress. And there’s 50 times more rutin in HTB than regular buckwheat.”

You can consider Himalayan tartary buckwheat a polyphenol powerhouse since it supports a wide variety of immune-related processes in our bodies and plays a key role in brain health.

The good news is it’s easy to cook with Himalayan tartary buckwheat flour. You can simply switch it out in baking and other recipes where you might use flour as a main ingredient. Pancakes and muffins are two popular options, but the opportunities are endless!

Foods that harm brain health

You now know that diet is a very important part of brain health. But in the same way that certain foods can nourish or support brain health, there are also foods that can harm brain health.

An article published by Healthline explains, “Some foods have negative effects on the brain, impacting your memory and mood and increasing your risk of dementia. Estimates predict that dementia will affect more than 65 million people worldwide by 2030. Luckily, you can help reduce your risk of the disease by cutting certain foods out of your diet.”

The article lists the worst foods for brain health as sugary drinks, refined carbs, foods high in trans fats (such as shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods, ready-made cakes, and pre-packaged cookies), artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame), excess sugar, alcohol, and fish with high mercury levels. Highly processed foods such as chips, sweets, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, store-bought sauces, and ready-made meals are another major source of harm.

If you cut these brain-harming foods out of your diet and add in lots of good-for-your-brain ingredients such as leafy greens, nuts, fish, and cruciferous vegetables, you can rest assured you’re giving your brain the support it needs to do its job for you!

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