David Samadi Chairman of Urology, Chief of Robotic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, Professor of Urology at Hofstra School of Medicine
We always hear talk about heart health, but what about brain health? Our brain needs our attention too and needs to be nourished and fed the right kind of foods to keep us thinking clearly, focused, feeling energetic and functioning at our best.
As dementia and Alzheimer’s disease continue to rise in the United States with no cure in sight, the earlier we begin making healthy food choices, the better. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death with 5.3 million Americans living with this condition. It is predicted that unless a cure is found, 16 million Americans will have the disease by 2050.
The brain needs adequate blood flow to enhance memory and cognitive thinking. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating how a healthy diet with proper food choices does indeed make a remarkable difference in how we think and feel, giving us a brain boost we can benefit from. By adding in foods to boost brain health, this is one way we can participate in keeping our brains healthy.
- Go for the greens
It’s good to be green, and it’s very good to eat greens. Look in your food cart and see how many foods you choose of this lovely color. All that green means antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and tons of important vitamins and nutrients. The darker the green the better — choose spinach, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, Romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, broccoli and Brussel sprouts. Include these foods in a stir-fry or try roasted for a delicious change of pace.
- Don’t overlook omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the best brain boosting substances you will find. If you want to have proper brain functioning well into your golden years, omega-3s are a must. One type of omega-3 fatty acid is called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is absolutely necessary for improving memory. The most abundant fatty acid in the brain is DHA – by eating sufficient food sources of this fatty acid means more of it circulating in the bloodstream helping your brain to function more efficiently.Some of the best foods sources of DHA are salmon, sardines, herring, shellfish, and bluefin tuna (which has up to 5 times more DHA than other tuna). Fish oil, seaweed and microalgae supplements are also good alternatives for obtaining DHA.Include rich fish sources of DHA at least twice a week — try grilling, baking or broiling fish to bring out their best flavor.
- Be big on berries and cherries
Each time you go grocery shopping, be sure to pick up some type of a berry and/or cherries. Think blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries — they are all good and exceptional sources of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that build a healthy brain. Whether fresh, frozen or dried, berries and cherries can be enjoyed as part of a snack, as a topping on cereal or oatmeal or as part of a trail mix (dried fruit).
- Get cracking with walnuts
This is one nut you want to have each day. Walnuts are a good plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, natural phytosterols, and antioxidants, all of which boost brain functioning and brain healing. Add walnuts to a salad, snack on a handful each day, add to a vegetable stir-fry or top oatmeal with a couple of tablespoons.
- Garbonzo beans or chickpeas
Whichever you want to call them, garbonzo beans aka chickpeas, are an abundant food source of the mineral magnesium. Magnesium benefits brain cell receptors speeding the transmission of messages while relaxing blood vessels allowing more blood flow to the brain.
This spice often used in Indian food contains the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease breaking up existing plaques. Research has also shown it can also increase memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells.