A healthy diet not just improves physical performance but brain function too. Several studies have established that nutrients in some foods can help prevent brain cell loss, improve memory and cognition, and even reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Here are evidence-backed health benefits of five such foods that you must eat for improved mental performance.
Already known for their ability to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, blueberries help fight Alzheimer’s disease as well. In a study by University of Cincinnati researchers, adults aged 68 and older performed better on cognitive tests after 16 weeks of taking blueberry powder supplements, versus a control group taking a placebo. Blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition—according to Robert Krikorian, PhD, professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Resembling the shape of brain, walnuts are good for brain health too. Loaded with high antioxidant content, combination of numerous vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fatty acid, these may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including those for memory, concentration and information processing speed—according to a research by the David Geffen School of Medicine at The University of California, Los Angeles, led by Dr Lenore Arab. Cognitive function was consistently greater in adult participants that consumed walnuts, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. The findings of the research were published in March 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging.
Researchers at Edith Cowan University, Australia, have found that curcumin, a compound found in turmeric spice, could significantly improve brain function. Curcumin blocks beta amyloid proteins that gradually form plaques between brain cells and destroy neurons. One hour after administration, curcumin significantly improved performance on sustained attention and working memory tasks, compared with placebo. Working memory and mood (general fatigue and change in state calmness, contentedness and fatigue induced by psychological stress) were significantly better following chronic treatment. Additionally, when participants were assessed 1-3 hours after a single dose following four weeks of treatment, significant effects on alertness and contentedness were observed.
Consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower and broccoli too helps fight against Alzheimer’s. These foods contain a chemical that activates the protein Nrf2. Researchers at University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry have found that Nrf2 helped promote degradation of the bad tau proteins, potentially preventing brain cells from developing neurofibrillary tangles—a prominent feature of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, broccoli contain nutrients like vitamin K, which strengthens cognitive performance, and choline, which improves memory.
This may sound weird but eating chocolate is actually good for your memory and other cognitive functions—according to a study by researchers at the University of South Australia, University of Maine and Luxembourg Institute of Health. The researchers found that of the 968 participants studied, more frequent chocolate consumption was “significantly associated” with improved memory, visual-spatial memory and organization and abstract reasoning. The study suggests that cocoa flavanols and methylxanthines in chocolate could be the reason for improved brain function.
Written by Uma Gupta, contributing author for Technology.Org