Eating foods good for the brain, exercise, adequate sleep and keeping a healthy nervous system are important factors for a healthy brain.
Green, leafy vegetables. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.
Fatty fish. Fatty fish are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid—the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, but choose varieties that are low in mercury, such as salmon, cod, canned light tuna, and pollack. If you’re not a fan of fish, ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 supplement, or choose terrestrial omega-3 sources such as flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
Berries. Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their brilliant hues, also help improve memory, research shows. In a 2012 study published in Annals of Neurology, researchers at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week delayed memory decline by up to two-and-a-half years.
Tea and coffee (in moderation, <2 cups in the morn). The caffeine in your morning cup of coffee or tea might offer more than just a short-term concentration boost. In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants with higher caffeine consumption scored better on tests of mental function. Caffeine might also help solidify new memories, according to other research. Investigators at Johns Hopkins University asked participants to study a series of images and then take either a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeine tablet. More members of the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the images on the following day.
Walnuts. Nuts are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, and one type of nut in particular might also improve memory. A 2015 study from UCLA linked higher walnut consumption to improved cognitive test scores. Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps lower blood pressure and protects arteries. That’s good for both the heart and brain.
A healthy nervous system
The nervous system is such an important part of your body. You want it to work at its best so that you can be at your best. Your nervous system contains what is probably the most important part of your body, which, of course, is your brain. Your brain allows you to learn. It allows you to feel emotions like love, anger, and sadness. Your brain gives you the ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It works together with the nerves and spinal cord to send the signals that make your body move. Your nervous system lets you do things like run, jump, play sports, and do your homework.
There are many choices you can make to keep your nervous system healthy. One obvious choice is to avoid using alcohol or other drugs. Not only will you avoid the injury that drugs themselves can cause, but you will also be less likely to get involved in other risky behaviors that could harm your nervous system. Another way to keep the nervous system healthy is to eat a variety of healthy foods. The minerals sodium, calcium, and potassium, and vitamins B1 and B12 are important for a healthy nervous system. Some foods that are good sources for these minerals and vitamins include milk, whole grains, beef steak, and kidney beans (shown in Figure below). Your brain also needs healthy fats like those in nuts and fish. Recall that fats insulate the axons of neurons. These fats help build new connections between nerves and brain cells. These fats may improve memory and increase learning and intelligence. Water is also important for the nervous system, so drink plenty of water and other fluids. This helps prevent dehydration, which can cause confusion and memory problems. And get plenty of rest. Your brain requires plenty of rest so it can strengthen circuits that help with memory. A good night’s sleep will help keep your brain functioning at its best.
You can also choose to practice safe behaviors to protect your nervous system from injury. To keep your nervous system safe, choose to:
- Wear safety goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes from injury.
- Wear hearing protectors, such as ear plugs to protect your ears from loud sounds.
- Wear a safety helmet for activities like bike riding and skating (Figure below).
- Wear a safety belt every time you ride in a motor vehicle.
- Avoid unnecessary risks, such as performing dangerous stunts on your bike.
- Never dive into water that is not approved for diving. If the water is too shallow, you could seriously injure your brain or spinal cord. A few minutes of fun could turn into a lifetime in a wheelchair.
Connie’s comments: A healthy nervous system leads to a stronger immune system, allowing the brain to detox coupled with adequate sleep and exercise.