Suddenly cooking more at home? Bare shelf space in grocery stores indicate that many of us are still only occasionally venturing out to restaurants, while spending more time in the kitchen. Whether working on your grocery list or studying the restaurant menu, we’ve found the best ingredients for a brain-healthy diet with the goal of making our brainspan match our lifespan.
Key Nutrients Linked To Healthier Brains
A study by a team at the University of Illinois lead by psychology professor Aron K. Barbey found certain key nutrients are linked to better cognition. Barbey noted that five biomarkers were linked to higher cognitive performance: omega 3 and 6 (see following on omega 3); lycopene, vitamin D (more on D coming up); and carotenoids. Links to the research summary here and details here.
A study of over 70,000 adults in Japan found that those eating the most plant protein were 30% less likely to die from heart disease than those eating the least. More on that here. And, according to an article in Consumer Reports magazine, nuts are great sources of plant protein:
- Peanuts (OK, we know it is actually a bean) are loaded with protein. That’s why you see PGA golfers eating a peanut butter sandwich for energy on the course.
- Almonds contain a healthy dose of fiber plus vitamin E.
- Pecans are rich in antioxidants.
- Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fats. (See omega 3 following.)
- Pistachios have both potassium and vitamin B6.
Higher Omega -3 Linked To Lower Death Rate
We’ve discussed and used data from the famous Framingham Heart Study many times. William S. Harris, PhD, Nathan L. Tintle PhD, of the math department at Dordt College, Mark R. Etherton, MD, PhD of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, and Ramachandran S. Vasan, MD of the Cardiology and Preventive Medicine Depart at the Boston University School of Medicine used data from the Framingham study to ascertain benefits from omega-3. Using a sample of 2,500 individuals, they found that the quartile with the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids had a 35% lower mortality rate than the quartile with the lowest, and a 55% lower risk of stroke. (emphasis mine). In addition to the tasty walnuts mentioned above, fish such as salmon and avocados are good sources of omega-3. Study linked here.
Yes, Garlic Does Have Health Benefit
According to Laura Jeffers at the Cleveland Clinic, garlic can boost immunity, is an anti-inflammatory, is good for heart health and blood pressure and can be used as topical for many purposes. (Finding a new boyfriend/girlfriend is unlikely to be an outcome of topical garlic application). She did not comment on any possible benefits in combating vampires or werewolves. More here.
Lower LDL Cholesterol With These Foods
Harvard Health Publishing, part of the Harvard Medical School, in the Harvard Health Letter noted 11 foods that lower cholesterol. Specifically, these are foods that help lower LDL cholesterol, the one we generally think of as “bad”. We’ve mentioned some of these in the previous paragraphs. Here are some of the others: oats, barley and other whole grains, beans, eggplant, okra, vegetable oils, apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruits and soy. Link to that Harvard note here.
Vitamin-D Shortage Linked To Risk of Depression
A study at Trinity College in Dublin Ireland found that older adults have a 75% increase in the risk of succumbing to depression when they don’t have sufficient vitamin D. Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the body as a reaction to sunshine on skin. With the number of us staying home, the risk of a low level of vitamin D has increased. Get some sun. Fatty fish like salmon, and eggs can supply some vitamin D, but sun exposure seems to be a far superior source. Study author Eamon Laird, PhD noted “This study shows that vitamin D is associated with a health condition other than bone health. What is surprising is the large effect on depression even after accounting for other control variables”. Link to the study here.
More Brain-Building Ideas
I founded Big Brain Place because I saw how fast science is discovering the secrets to brain health, and realized how little I knew about it. Clearly I couldn't be the only one not familiar with the possible actions that can optimize brain health. At BigBrain.Place we are on a mission to help everyone, at any age, improve cognition, reduce the risk of dementia, insure our children have the opportunity to develop maximum brain capacity, and, in general, make our brainspans match our lifespans.
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