The food on your plate affects more than your waistline. What goes in your mouth has a direct effect on your brain as well. According to an article published in the July 2008 issue of "Nature Reviews Neuroscience," the food you eat can alter your brain health and its ability to function properly. The fact that diet affects brain health means that your brain can age gracefully with proper nutrition and a few specific brain foods.
Blueberries improve your memory, according to a study in the October 2012 issue of "Psychopharmacology." Researchers found that when rats had their diets supplemented with blueberries for seven weeks, they showed an improvement in memory function. They also exhibited the ability to learn at a faster rate than rats that did not consume blueberries. Blueberries are loaded with polyphenols, organic plant compounds that deliver beneficial brain effects. Blueberries are not the only berries that boost brain power. A review in the September 2012 issue of the "British Journal of Nutrition" stated that strawberries, blackberries and grapes also improve overall brain function. Throw some fresh berries on your cereal, salad or simply enjoy them alone.
If you steer clear of walnuts because they are high in fat, you may want to reconsider. While it is true that 1 ounce of walnut halves contains 18 grams of fat, only 1.7 grams of that is saturated and the rest is beneficial monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. These fats, particularly the polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, have a beneficial effect on brain health, according to a study in the November 2011 issue of "Plant Foods for Human Nutrition." In the study, researchers fed walnuts to rats for 28 days. At the end of that period, the rats showed significant improvement in their memory and learning ability.
Fatty fish, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids, can give you a brain boost. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids are found in brain tissue and may help with memory performance, learning and even behavioral issues, such as depression. Cold-water fish -- such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna and herring -- are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which benefit your heart as well as your brain. The American Heart Association recommends eating a minimum of two servings of fatty fish per week.
If you or a loved one are already beginning to experience problems with memory and learning ability, don't worry. A study published in the March 2012 issue of "The British Journal of Nutrition" reported that Concord grape juice was tested on patients experiencing memory loss and decline in brain function. Researchers found that after 12 weeks of supplementation, subjects showed improvement in memory function and learning skills. Enjoy a handful of Concord grapes for a snack, or refresh yourself with Concord grape juice. When selecting grape juice, buy 100 percent pure juice with no added sugar for the greatest health benefit.
- Nature Reviews Neuroscience: Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function
- Psychopharmacology: Blueberry Supplementation Induces Spatial Memory Improvements and Region-Specific Regulation of Hippocampal BDNF mRNA Expression in Young Rats
- The British Journal of Nutrition: A Berry Thought-Provoking Idea: The potential Role of Plant Polyphenols in the Treatment of Age-Related Cognitive Disorders
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nuts, Walnuts, English
- Plant Foods for Human Nutrition: Effects of Walnuts (Juglans regia) on Learning and Memory Functions
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- British Journal of Nutrition: Concord Grape Juice Supplementation Improves Memory Function in Older Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment
A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."