Want some food for thought? ... Literally
Say hello to oatmeal, barley and quinoa – all great complex carbohydrates that help fuel the brain, May says. "Oats contain soluble fiber, which removes cholesterol from the body and prevents plaque from forming in the arteries,"
Instead of reaching for that pint of ice cream when stress strikes, try Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and a handful of granola or another cereal made with whole grains, May suggests. The vitamins and minerals in Greek yogurt can help relieve stress and give your body and brain energy. What's more, research suggests probiotics (like those found in yogurts with live and active cultures) can help prevent cognitive decline and age-related memory loss, Kirkpatrick points out.
Carotenoids are a class of phytochemicals responsible for the bright yellow, red and orange hues in many fruits and vegetables – and lutein is the star player. Higher lutein levels have shown positive effects on brain functions, including in a February 2018 study of children published in the journal Nutrients. Eating a single serving of green leafy vegetables daily may help slow cognitive decline with aging, suggests a study of nearly 1,000 older adults published in the January 2018 issue of Neurology. Enjoying cooked kale (or a spinach salad) could support your brain function
A superfood rich in antioxidants, blueberries have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body's cells, including brain cells, and have been shown to improve learning capacity and motor skills.
Your morning cup might do more than just help get your day started, Kirkpatrick says. "Coffee is high in antioxidants, which surprises people," she says. "Studies have shown that regular coffee drinkers have a decreased risk of dementia." Just don't pile on the calories by adding loads of cream and sugar.
Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent cognitive decline, but it’s far from the only fish high in these beneficial fats. Sardines, anchovies and lake trout are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, meaning you can eat fish once or twice a week without getting bored of eating the same thing. "Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, so they reduce inflammation in the body," says Marilyn Gordon, a registered dietitian with Nova Southeastern University in Florida. "They are good for cardiovascular health and have been shown to preserve brain function."
Pucker up! Lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits can all help your brain stay healthy, Kirkpatrick says. Whether you're eating a grapefruit for breakfast or having a blood orange salad for lunch, get some citrus in your daily diet. "Studies show that people who have citrus fruits every day are able to prevent cognitive decline by more than two years," she says.
So next time you're in the grocery store grab some of these brain pumping foods!