- Your diet plays a key role in keeping your brain and the rest of your body healthy.
- There is a direct connection between the gut and the brain, such that, if you have a poor diet, you will experience memory issues.
- According to one study, there are lesser-known foods that are linked to improved cognitive function.
The health of your body and brain depends a lot on your diet. According to Dr. Kien Vuu, assistant professor of Health Sciences at UCLA, there is a direct physical connection between the brain and the gut, which is the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve links the brain to the gut and surrounding nervous system, allowing messages or signals to be sent back and forth between them. So when you have a poor diet or consume gut-irritating foods, it can lead to memory issues and poor cognitive function.
Generally, foods that are best for keeping the heart healthy will also work for the brain. But there are also less-known foods that have been shown to be beneficial for the brain.
One such study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease September 2020 issue, monitored 1787 adults in the UK with ages between 46-77. The participants were observed for over 10 years as dietary and cognitive data were collected from them. They also took a fluid intelligence test that will measure their ability to solve a problem without prior knowledge, which was repeated two more times within two to three years interval.
Among these foods found to be essential in improving brain function are:
In the study, it was found that eating cheese every day was linked to better performance on the cognitive test. The cognitive test measured the participants’ flexible thinking or their ability to take the information they already know and use it in other ways.
Auriel Willette, the lead researcher for the study and an assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University, explains that although cheese contains saturated fat, it also contains healthy nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). High levels of CLA have been associated with reduced inflammation, weight loss, and better fat regulation. Cheeses that have longer aging times or are more oxygenated, like blue, brie, sharp cheddar, and Swiss cheese, contain more CLA.
2. Lamb meat
Another food that the study suggests to be effective in improving fluid thinking is lamb meat. Willette shares that lamb meat is very lean, protein-packed, and produced naturally. Unlike other meats, lamb meats are pasture-bred and no antibiotics are pumped into them, thereby reducing cases of inflammation.
3. Fish Oil
Sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring (known as SMASH), according to Dr. Vuu, are all rich sources of omega-3. Omega-3 is an important component of brain cell membranes. According to another research published in the Neurology journal, eating seafood that contains omega-3 fatty acids once a week, may protect the brain from memory loss.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dr. Vuu notes that the flavonols in pure dark chocolate act as antioxidants that help protect the brain. Also, a review of studies found in the Frontiers of Nutrition suggested that consuming flavonol may improve memory, test scores, brain blood flow, and cognitive function.
5. Green tea
Caffeine-containing drinks like green tea and coffee can stimulate the brain and boost its function. While both coffee and green tea are brain stimulants, only green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that can cross the brain and is associated with a feeling of being relaxed and less anxious, resulting in better brain function. Also, green tea contains polyphenols which are linked to great brain benefits.
Another drink found in the study to provide brain benefit is alcohol. The participants in the study who consumed alcohol were observed to have higher flexible thinking scores than non-drinkers. Furthermore, red wine offers more benefits because of its antioxidant content. Willette shares that polyphenol antioxidants have been linked to increased blood flow, leading to more improved flexible thinking. While alcohol intake is beneficial, it should be done moderately.
Source: The Healthy