The Cottages Blog

Brain Foods: 5 Foods You Should Incorporate into Mom's Diet

Posted by Susan Abercrombie on Feb 18, 2016 9:00:00 AM

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As we age, our brains age, too. Most people will experience some form of cognitive decline because of aging. It’s important for us to keep our bodies as healthy as possible so that our brains stay in great shape as well. Hopefully, Mom is eating a balanced diet, paying attention to any specific dietary restrictions that she has, exercising daily, and taking the medications that her doctor has prescribed for her. Mom may also be taking a daily multivitamin. Different vitamins have different health benefits, and some are better for a brain boost than others. While a multivitamin is beneficial, The best way for Mom to get the vitamins that she needs is by eating the foods that contain them. Here are 5 foods that you can incorporate into Mom’s diet to help boost brainpower.

1. Oily Fish

One of the fatty acids that is essential for humans is alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid). This fatty acid is not naturally occurring in our bodies, so we have to acquire it through the foods that we eat. Omega-3 fats are found prevalently in oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and kippers. Two of the omega-3s that oily fish contain are Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. A study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry found that animals who were fed EPA fish oil showed improved memory function. For some healthy fish recipes, click here.

2. Greens

Eat broccoli and leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and collards and mustard greens, to help keep your memory sharp. These foods are all high in Vitamin K, which has been shown to strengthen cognitive power and brain function. One study that was conducted at Rush University Medical Center found that, “People who ate one to two servings per day had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none.” Vitamin K benefits your body in several other ways, too. It helps to heal injuries and to regulate normal blood clotting. It also helps the body to transport calcium, which aids in bone health and helps to reduce bone loss and decrease instances of fractures. Here are some healthy ways to cook your greens.

Another green you should consider adding into Mom’s diet is sage. A study published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior tested sage essential oils on participants and found that sage oil helped to “significantly improved word recall”. Another study that was conducted in China found that isolated compounds of sage acted in ways that were very similar to the Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AchE inhibitors) that are found in Alzheimer’s prescription drugs. Find some healthy recipes that have sage.

3. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all high in Vitamin C, which is thought to aid in preventing cognitive decline. Tufts University in Massachusetts conducted a study about blueberries and found that the high levels of Vitamin C in blueberries help to prevent memory loss.  A similar study that was done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked women who added strawberries and blueberries to their diets. This study found that, “Among women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week we saw a modest reduction in memory decline.” Another study done by Tufts University tested rats and found that blackberry extracts improved balance, coordination, and memory. For some great berry recipes, click here.

4. Tomatoes

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is found in some red and pink foods, in particular, tomatoes. It is a naturally occurring pigment that gives certain fruits their red color. While tomatoes contain the highest levels of lycopene, this carotenoid can also be found in other pink and red foods, like watermelon, grapefruit, and guava. A study that was published in the European Journal of Pharmacology concluded that lycopene helps to protect against memory impairment. Lycopene has also been linked to lowering stroke risk. You can find lycopene in any tomato-based foods, such as salsas, tomato sauces, and ketchup. Find some healthy tomato recipes.

5. Nuts

Nuts and seeds are great sources of Vitamin E. Higher levels of Vitamin E have been shown to correspond with less cognitive decline as one ages. Choose any of the following nuts and add them to Mom’s diet: Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseed, walnuts, hazelnuts, and unhydrogenated nut butters like peanut butter or almond butter. Try to buy the low-sodium or the unsalted varieties, as too much added salt is not good for your body. Cashews and pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, which has been shown to improve memory function in older people. One handful of pumpkin seeds contains close to the recommended daily amount of zinc. Here are some healthy nut recipes.

 

These 5 foods are certainly not the only foods with brain-boosting powers. Other foods that Mom might want to consider adding to her diet that are great for brain health are avocados, currants, whole grains, beans, pomegranates, dark chocolate, and tea. For more ideas for healthy recipes that incorporate brain foods, click here. Plan a cooking night with Mom, and have fun discovering new dishes.

 

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Topics: Senior Health Care

Susan Abercrombie

Written by: Susan Abercrombie

Susan has 32 years of nursing experience caring for seniors in assisted living and doctors’ offices. She now manages two Cottage communities in Alabama. Susan and her husband of 30 years, Tim, have two dogs, Sydney and Macy.