Learning, thinking, problem-solving, decision-making, and being able to pay attention all fall under a term that is referred to as cognitive function. Unfortunately, approximately two out of three Americans experience cognitive impairment, at an average age of 70 years. And while age is the greatest risk factor for experiencing cognitive decline, other risk factors include family history, education level, brain injury, physical inactivity, and chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and stroke, and diabetes. But believe it or not, the foods you eat—”brain foods,” if you will—may impact your cognitive health too.
Studies show that the foods we include in our diets play a pivotal role in supporting brain function, memory retention, and overall cognitive well-being. Generally, evidence finds that low-fat diets appear to be protective against cognitive decline, as do following dietary patterns that include the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets.
If you are looking for specific foods to include in your overall healthy diet to support your cognitive health, look no further than this list of 9 brain-boosting foods. Each item offers unique cognitive health benefits, and they are delicious to boot! Read on, and for more, don’t miss 6 Worst Drinks for Brain Health.
The choline in eggs helps support lifelong brain health at every age and stage, including memory, thinking, mood, and more. Unfortunately, around 90% of Americans fall short of the recommended intake of choline, and intake declines after age 50 with only 4% of adults aged 71 and older reaching the adequate intake for choline. Eggs are one of the few foods rich in choline and can help Americans meet the recommended daily intake.
Lutein has long been associated with eye health but research has discovered lutein may play an important role in cognition as well. Similar to how lutein accumulates in the eye, it’s also present in the brain and has been positively associated with better cognitive function in older adults and academic performance in children.
Routine intake of eggs has been associated with improved cognitive performance in adults, possibly, in part, because of the brain health-supporting nutrients that this food offers. It is important to remember to eat the yolk, as this is where both choline and lutein are found.
Yes, you can (and should) eat the yolk! According to the American Heart Association, healthy individuals can include up to a whole egg or equivalent daily as part of a heart-healthy dietary pattern. For older people with healthy cholesterol levels, given the nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs, consumption of up to two eggs per day is acceptable within the context of a heart-healthy dietary pattern. And vegetarians may include even more eggs in their diets within the context of moderation.
The glorious mushroom is so much more than a meat sub in a vegan-friendly burger. These fantastic fungi are the leading sources of ergothioneine in the produce aisle.
Ergothioneine is an amino acid that functions as an antioxidant. Ergothioneine’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties make it an important bioactive compound that may contribute to healthy aging, cognitive benefits, and reduced stress when part of a healthy lifestyle and eating patterns.
Researchers published in the British Journal of Nutrition positioned ergothioneine as a “longevity vitamin” suggesting that this veggie may be an important source of this nutrient for supporting healthy aging and cognitive benefits.
Although all mushrooms have ergothioneine, certain varieties contain more of this compound than others. Shiitake, oyster, and maitake mushrooms have the highest amounts of ergothioneine compared to other varieties.
Walnuts are the only tree nut that is a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which is why they’re one of the best foods for brain health. And consumption of these nuts that are packed with this healthy fat may combat oxidative stress and inflammation — two drivers of cognitive decline.
According to the results of The Walnuts And Healthy Aging study, a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effects of eating between 30 and 60 grams of walnuts every day for 2 years, daily walnut consumption might delay cognitive decline among those at higher risk.