Are you finding you don’t seem to be thinking as clearly as you did pre-Covid? The months-long pandemic, social distancing and changes to your routine (not to mention binge watching Netflix) might have caused you to feel a bit “lost.”
Right now it’s important to remember that a healthy diet is as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Your brain requires fuel 24/7 in order to control thoughts, movements, breathing and heartbeats, as well as your senses. Shouldn’t you provide it with the highest quality fuel possible?
Growing scientific evidence shows that a diet rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals and certain vitamins can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and depression, and help boost memory and alertness. The best menu for your brain includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains, beans and omega-3 fatty acids.
Need a super-powered brain plan? Add these foods regularly into rotation:
Green leafy vegetables. All vegetables are important but green leafy ones offer particularly high vitamin, fiber and folate content. I recommend at least one serving of these every day. Try a kale or shaved Brussels sprout salad, sauté collards, cabbage or spinach for a tasty side, or wrap your next sandwich in dark green romaine.
Berries. These nutrient-dense morsels are super-packed with anthocyanins and flavonoids which might boost memory function. Use fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries or even cherries to top off a leafy green salad, mixed into oatmeal or for dessert with a spoonful of plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Found only in seafood and fish, omega-3 fatty acids, or more specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential for brain health and development. Challenge yourself to include these foods in your diet two or three times per week. Best sources include salmon, herring, tuna and sardines.
Are you vegan, vegetarian or just not a seafood-lover? Don’t fret. You can include plant-based sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which are converted to DHA in our bodies. The best sources are walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed and seaweed. An ounce of walnuts daily will give you the most brain punch, but be sure to account for those extra calories (approximately 180 calories per 1 ounce serving).
Wine. If you enjoy a good glass of wine every now and then, you’re in luck. Both red and white wines may benefit the brain. Aim for no more than one glass daily. Of course, if you don’t currently drink alcohol it is not recommended that you start for brain health.
In addition to consuming these healthy brain foods, remember to limit your consumption of foods that have been proven to inhibit brain health – including unhealthy fats from butter, fast foods, fried foods and sweets.
While I can’t guarantee that following these recommendations will help reduce the number of times you lose your keys, I do feel confident it will get you on the right path to better health.
Jenny Craft RD, LD, CDCES, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who provides outpatient nutrition counseling with Beaufort Memorial in both Okatie and Beaufort.