When you embrace the concept of "food as medicine", you realise just how important it is to fuel your brain with the right nutrients.
Your brain is the "command centre" or "operating system" that controls not only your thoughts, but also vital body functions and ultimately the quality of your life.
For these reasons, it is really important to pay attention to the foods that support healthy cognitive function.
Here, we reveal the main causes of the brain degeneration and some of the best foods you can embrace to support a healthy mind and brain.
What Causes Brain Degeneration?
As we age, the brain is constantly under threat from elements that can impact its ability to function optimally. The main threats include:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined sugars
- Food additives, chemicals and preservatives
- Heavy metals in foods, personal care products and the environment, such as lead, mercury and aluminium
- Distilled alcohol such as spirits
- Prescription drugs and medications
Limiting exposure to these elements over time can help limit the risk of brain degeneration, not to mention the impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Additionally, one of the biggest factors of cognitive decline over time is a lack of hydration which the brain consistently requires to flush out toxins and to function optimally. At the very least, you should aim to drink two litres of clean water every single day, as this is equivalent to the approximate weight of the brain that should be replenished.
When it comes to foods that support healthy brain function, there are many. However, here we highlight eight of the top foods from nature's table that specifically target brain health, supporting memory, focus and concentration and that can help you avoid brain degeneration and cognitive decline.
Blueberries have long been considered a superfood, but it’s not just because they taste delicious.
These little blue fruits improve brain function, among many other benefits, and can actually help reverse short-term memory loss that is common with age.
The flavonoids in blueberries are what give them their vibrant colour, but it’s also what helps protect our brains as we get older.
Blueberries are especially good for the brain but all berries can help. Try eating a serving of berries a day (including some blueberries) to help improve brain function and protect it from age-related decline.
2. Raw Nuts
Raw Nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans, are pure brain food. Not only do they look like specific parts of the brain, the healthy fats deliver vital nutrients that support optimum brain function and memory.
Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to break up lipofuscin plaque in the brain, whilst also protecting your heart health and improving blood flow and thereby improve brain function too.
Almonds look just like a part of the brain called the Amygdala, which is considered to be part of the brain's limbic system, where memory is stored. They also lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and are packed with nutrients such as protein, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium.
Snack on raw nuts regularly, throw them in salads and consume organic nut milks and you'll go a long way to supporting healthy brain function.
Pulse Sacred Meal is considered a pure "Brain Food" because of its high ratio of a variety of raw nuts contained in the recipe. Choose Pulse as a super convenient, delicious brain boosting, anytime snack.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, brussel sprouts and asparagus. The name cruciferous comes from the latin word crucifix, because the blossoms of these plants resemble an equidistant cross.
When you look at these foods, you'll notice that they have stems and branches that mirror the dendrites and structure of the brain. It's no accident that they look this way and that mother nature delivers these foods to support healthy brain function.
Cruciferous vegetables also provide a host of phytonutrients, including Vitamins A and C and minerals such as folate, known for their powers in reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of cancer. They are rich in fibre, low in calories, meaning they'll fill you up but won't cause you to gain weight.
One of nature's most perfect versatile foods, avocados should be a staple of any healthy diet.
Rich in folate and good fats, Avocados are known to support healthy brain function and to help prevent degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Avocados are also full of potassium, which together with the omega-3s and oleic acid, can help to reduce blood pressure that supports the quality of blood flow to the brain.
The magnesium content in Avocados can assist to balance mood and lower depression which can be a function of toxicity in the brain. Avocados also contain antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress to help fight off disease and good fats to support healthy digestion.
Learn more in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Good for Inflammation, Brain & Heart Health.
Include avocados in your diet regularly - add them to salads, on their own with salt and lemon juice, prepare guacamole or even add 1/2 a ripe avo to a green smoothie.
5. Dark Chocolate
If there’s ever been a reason to eat dark chocolate, it’s to protect and improve your brain function.
Derived from raw cacao, not only is organic dark chocolate a healthy treat, it’s choc full of antioxidants that help protect your body from oxidative stress. By consuming dark chocolate or raw cacao, you assist your body to fight off free radicals and protect from illness and dis-ease, especially as you age.
The key nutrient in cacao are the Flavanols which have been studied for decades. They have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots and fight cellular damage
When it comes to chocolate, be sure to choose only raw dark chocolate, not the big brand commercial varieties of chocolate - they're not the same! You can also add raw cacao powder to smoothies and raw deserts as a treat to benefit from this wonderful, healthy promoting, mood-boosting food.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains are an important source of nutrients, but they also help protect and improve your brain function. The B vitamins in whole grains actually help reduce inflammation in the brain that can affect cognitive function and memory. As well, whole grains improve heart health and blood flow, which help increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Swap out any refined carbohydrates for whole grain versions, and you’ll not only stay healthier and lighter, but also get in crucial nutrients for brain health.
Legumes should be a part of any healthy diet because they are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Legumes, which include various beans like kidney, cannellini and borlotti, lentils and chickpeas, are nutritional powerhouses that deliver so many health benefits, including supporting brain function.
Legumes and beans are incredibly healing to the gut, which directly affects the brain. There’s a brain-gut connection that means that a healthy gut is a healthy brain and vice versa. By eating plenty of legumes, you’ll give your gut the fibre it needs to help cultivate a healthy microbiome.
Make legumes a part of your daily diet, whether as a meat substitute, a bean side salad, in soups and stews, pureed in dips, and so much more.
Coffee is has been a controversial topic in health circles over the years, but the health benefits are now being realised when the right source of coffee is enjoyed in moderation.
Coffee is a wonderful beverage that has been embraced for centuries, particularly in the morning, to help support healthy digestion and as a natural energy stimulant.
The most important thing with coffee is to be mindful of your source. The problem is that commercial coffee has become highly commoditised with questionable farming practices, so it's important to find a quality product and to choose organic wherever you can.
Real organic coffee is full of protective polyphenols and antioxidants, which can help protect your body and brain at the cellular level. Plus, the natural caffeine can boost memory and concentration which becomes harder to maintain as you get older.
Make sure your cup of coffee isn’t loaded with added sugar and factory farmed dairy milk.
If you can drink it straight black, this is the best way to go to give you maximum health benefits. Alternatively, add a dash of your favourite plant-based milk, such as coconut, oat or almond.
Sometimes if you're used to having milk with your coffee it can take a little time to make the transition to black only.
Another delicious way to go, is to add a dash of MCT oil and Organic Coconut Butter as a substitute for milk for a delightful, stimulating drink that also helps produce ketones in the liver for fat burning and quality brain fuel for focus and concentration, particularly when enjoyed on an empty stomach.
The Main Takeaway
There's nothing more important than healthy cognitive and brain function, which is why it's vital to include plenty of foods in your diet that support your brain health.
It's important to minimise processed foods and refined sugars which cause plaque on the brain to form over time.
Additionally, make sure you drink plenty of water every day and get regular exercise if you want to greatly lower your risk of brain related diseases.
By leading a healthy lifestyle and including the foods we've shared with you here in your diet on a regular basis, you'll go a long way to maintaining healthy brain function and enjoy the best possible quality of life as you age into your golden years.
Tolman Self Care.