If you’re a fan of crossword puzzles, reading, and other “mental gymnastics” because they keep your brain young and healthy, don’t forget to consider your diet when it comes to maintaining your brain health. Research indicates that the best brain foods are the ones that also protect your heart and blood vessels.1 From green, leafy vegetables to fatty fish, find out the best foods for brain health, how food affects your mental health and body, and how the risk of certain diseases more prevalent in women can be greatly reduced by your diet.
What a Brain-Healthy Diet Can Do for Women
According to neuroscientist and nutritionist Lisa Mosconi, adhering to a brain-healthy diet can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as other common ailments that disproportionately affect women, from slow metabolism to depression.2 The following studies confirm the positive effects of certain nutrients on brain function:
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants found in berries, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage, and extra virgin olive oil can help protect the brain from harmful free radicals that can lead to cognitive decline. One study shows that an antioxidant-rich diet is associated with steady brain energy levels and fewer Alzheimer’s plaques, especially in women.3
- Omega-3s: Good fats like omega-3s help support the aging brain and can be found in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies, and sardines. Some studies show that omega-3s may help prevent vascular dementia.4
- Gut-healthy foods: Research indicates that our gut microbiome may be linked to brain health and behavior, especially when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety.5 A gut-healthy diet includes such foods as prebiotics like garlic, onion, and legumes, and probiotics like dairy, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi.
Common Ailments That Affect Women
A brain-healthy diet doesn’t just play a significant role in reducing cognitive decline. There are various other ailments that disproportionately affect women, which can be greatly reduced by adhering to a conscious diet. These include:
- Heart disease: According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading killer of both women and men in America. The brain-healthy foods mentioned above typically double as heart-healthy foods, though there are some standouts, like whole grains, garlic, and green tea, which are known to reduce bad cholesterol.6,7,8
- Breast cancer: A study of 104,000 people over 18 years found a link between processed foods and an 11 percent increase in breast cancer in postmenopausal women.9 Limiting the intake of processed foods could greatly reduce this risk.
- Depression and anxiety: Women are twice as likely to be affected with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as men, which often co-occurs with depression.10 Harvard researchers have found that some of the best foods for mood disorders include magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains, foods rich in zinc like oysters, beef, and liver, probiotic-rich food and more.11
Optimizing Your Diet for Brain Health
Optimizing your diet for brain health doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. To recap the research above, consider adding these items to your grocery list:
- Veggies: Dark, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
- Fruits: Berries, tomatoes, oranges, guava, and kiwis
- Fish: Salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, and anchovies
- Cooking oil: Extra virgin olive oil
- Probiotics/prebiotics: Garlic, onion, legumes, dairy, sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi
In addition to tweaking your diet, there are a number of other healthy lifestyle factors that can make a difference in your long-term cognitive health. These include practicing mindfulness, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and even limiting your screen time. Managing your stress and anxiety can also protect your memory and cognition and lower your risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.12 If you find that lifestyle factors aren’t enough to lower your stress and anxiety, consider Brillia, a safe, non-prescription medication that helps to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress without harsh chemicals or harmful side effects. Brillia works best in combination with the healthier lifestyle choices mentioned above and has no contraindications. This means if you are already taking another medication, you can add Brillia to your regimen without worry. Find out more about how Brillia works.