Memory loss is a common part of aging, but for those struck by more severe forms – Alzheimer’s and other associated dementias – these deficits can be devastating. In fact, memory loss is such a serious problem that Alzheimer’s and related conditions will cost the United States $277 billion in healthcare, support, and lost productivity in 2018 alone. A problem that big requires a multimodal solution.
One small step everyone can take to protect their brain’s health and memory function is to eat right, starting early in life. That means you need a varied diet rich in neuroprotective nutrients. So what exactly should you feed your brain? Here are 3 foods to pile on your plate.
Fatty cold-water fish and caviar may not sound like the healthiest foods you could eat, but when it comes to neurological function, they’re just what the doctor ordered. That’s because these foods are rich in omega-3 DHA, a fat that can significantly minimize Alzheimer’s risk. In studies, individuals with more circulating omega-3 DHA were also shown to have larger brain volumes.
Fish such as salmon, arctic char, and even sardines are some of the best sources of omega-3 DHA, but if you have a choice between a slice of fish and fish eggs, you might actually opt for the latter if you want to ensure brain health. That’s because fish eggs, both high-end caviar and budget varieties, contain a balanced amount of omega-3 DHA, choline, B6, B12, and other vitamins that all work together for nervous system health and are best absorbed together.
Cabbage isn’t the most attractive food around, but like all vegetables, it has a definite place in your diet – and when it comes to your brain, cabbage is a good source of phosphatidylserine, a nutrient that aids in nerve communication. With better nerve communication comes improved focus and memory. In particular, phosphatidylserine works in the hippocampus, maintaining cell health and ensuring that the part of the brain that turns short-term memories into long-term ones is in top form.
If you choose to buy phosphatidylserine supplements for brain health, make sure to check how they were made. In the past, manufacturers made phosphatidylserine from cow brain cells, but due to concerns about mad cow disease, most have discontinued this process. Today, most of these supplements are sourced from cabbage or soybeans to avoid this risk.
Curcumin, the compound that makes turmeric bright yellow, has been in the news a lot lately because of its health benefits, and many of those benefits center on the brain. In particular, curcumin can reduce brain inflammation and increase the availability of the antioxidant glutathione. Brain inflammation is a leading cause of neurological damage and degeneration, so find a way to work it into your diet, whether in curry, golden milk, or as a stand-alone supplement.
If you are going to take curcumin as a supplement, consider mixing it with coconut oil, olive oil, or even that brain health booster fish oil for improved absorption. On its own, curcumin has poor bioavailability, but fat helps the body to absorb it as much as seven times better than when curcumin is taken in isolation.
Food + Fitness = Function
Ultimately, good nutrition partners with fitness to minimize dementia risks and help you maintain peak function for years to come. So pile on the fish and whole foods and then get moving. Though Alzheimer’s rates have been steadily falling in recent years, we still have a long way to go when it comes to reducing the impact of memory loss in the coming decades.