We often hear about foods that are good for heart health, but rarely think about foods that enrich the brain. That’s a shame since what we eat can impact our ability to think clearly and combat age-related conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The right foods can also combat brain fog and can enhance concentration, memory and alertness. Here’s what you need to have on your menu to boost brain power.
Start with protein: Not getting enough protein can lead to problems with mood, energy and metabolism. It can also cloud your thinking. Protein contains L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is important in the synthesis of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters help the brain send signals to the rest of the body that allow for alertness, clarity, memory and good mood. Protein also helps you stay on-task and aids concentration. Foods that are super-high in protein include beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, veal and fish. Make sure to include a protein option at each meal. It will allow for clear thinking and consistent energy throughout the day.
Bulk up on B-vitamins: Many older adults who develop dementia also have high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in their blood. Studies indicate that vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid can lower homocysteine levels, so it’s important to get enough of these important nutrients. High homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B6 is required to make the neurotransmitters that are involved with memory and concentration. Research shows that a vitamin B6 deficiency has been linked to brain-based conditions such as depression and Parkinson’s disease. Foods that are good source of vitamin B6 include chicken breast, pork loin and roast beef. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish and poultry. The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include depression, confusion and memory loss, but these conditions can be corrected once the deficiency is discovered. Since older adults often lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12, a deficiency is a common condition.
Limit sugar and trans fat: Staying clear-headed will help you carry out your daily tasks with precision and accuracy. What will throw you off course? Trans fat and sugar. Trans fat can disrupt the normal flow of communication in between brain cells, resulting in diminished mental performance over the long term. Sugar can make you feel sluggish and sleepy, thus decreasing the razor-sharp thinking that you likely crave. Other brain boosters include foods that are rich in omega-3 fat, such as fatty fish. Vegetables and fruits are loaded with potent antioxidants and a variety of vitamins that are also crucial for optimal brain health. Finally, staying hydrated with water and other low calorie fluids will help boost cognitive functioning.