Older man eating food at a table.

Can Your Diet Improve Brain Health?

It’s been said that you are what you eat. This isn’t too far from the truth, as we know that overall physical health can be significantly impacted by diet. But can your diet really improve your brain’s health?

Yes! Recent studies show that eating specific types of foods can help improve your brain’s function, especially in later stages of life. Here, we discuss some of the changes our brains experience as we age and share which foods have been shown to boost your brain’s health.

How the Brain Changes as We Age

Our bodies evolve at every stage of our lives. So it makes sense that as we age, our brain may encounter a few transformations too. Here are a few changes your brain may experience:  

  • Changes to brain mass. The brain begins to reduce in size when we’re around 30-40 years old. The frontal lobe and hippocampus tend to shrink more than other areas of the brain. Their decreased size can result in severe mood swings, loss of reasoning and problem-solving abilities.    
  • Altered synaptic connections. Texas A&M Health explains that your brain’s synapses “connect neurons in the brain to neurons in the rest of the body.” This is what gives us the ability to think “I need to move my arm” and have that translated in your body as actual movement of your arm. As we age, this connection can weaken, which can negatively impact cognitive and motor function. 
  • Fewer neurotransmitter systems. The brain generates fewer chemical messages with age, leading to decreased serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine in the body. Lower levels of these chemicals could result in a higher likelihood of depression and a decline in memory and cognitive abilities. 

Brain Health and Diet: How are They Related? 

Fortunately, cognitive decline is not an inevitable circumstance of aging. There are things you can do to proactively improve your brain’s health, such as regularly exercising and eating a well balanced, nutrient-rich diet. 

Foods that Can Improve Brain Health

The following foods have been shown to boost brain function at any age. More doctors are starting to recommend eating these foods regularly. 

  • Leafy greens. There’s a reason that so many studies continue to tell us to eat our vegetables. Spinach, kale and broccoli are rich in nutrients such as vitamin K, beta carotene, folate and lutein that can delay or even prevent cognitive decline.    
  • Berries. These fruits are full of flavonoids that can improve your memory. 
  • Fatty Fish. Fish has long been considered good for your brain. Fatty fishes such as salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which according to Harvard Medical School “lowers blood levels of beta-amyloid—the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.”  
  • Walnuts. Walnuts can help improve your memory, clean your arteries and lower your blood pressure. What gives walnuts this superpower? Most nuts are high in protein and  healthy fats, but walnuts consist of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is good for your arteries, blood pressure and as a result, your brain.      
  • Coffee or tea. Studies show caffeine can “help solidify memories,” and improve cognitive ability. The Journal of Nutrition published study results in 2014 that showed “participants with higher caffeine consumption scored better on tests of mental function.”

To make it easier to eat these foods on a regular basis, consider following the popular Mediterranean diet. It incorporates many of these nutrient-rich foods in its healthy diet regime.

Eat Well at Abbey Delray South

At Abbey Delray South, a prestigious senior living community located near Delray Beach, Florida we curate healthy lifestyles for our residents. Our upscale dining services reflect this commitment. Our fresh produce, signature smoothies and other healthy offerings help residents feel good and live well. Contact us to learn more about lifestyle options at Abbey Delray South.