Perhaps you’re seeking mental clarity, focus, and a sense of calm. Or maybe you want to sidestep senior moments and dementia later on in life. Whatever your intention, it turns out that your kitchen can be your secret weapon for boosting brain health.
As I explain in my new book, The Brain Fog Fix, eating the right foods can be one of the most important ways to prevent brain fog and related issues. Here, I'm sharing six of my favorites:
1. Farm-raised rainbow trout
You’ve probably heard all about the health benefits of wild salmon, thanks to its omega-3 fatty acids. Still, wild salmon is often pricey. But farm-raised rainbow trout tends to be less expensive and has a wonderful and mild flavor. It’s also low in toxins like mercury and high in omega-3s.
Don't eat fish? Vegetarians can get their feel-good omega-3 EPA by eating the omega-3 ALA in the form of walnuts and flaxseed, as your body converts ALA to EPA.
2. Red wine
While we don't often consider alcohol to be something that helps us think better, research shows that a glass of red wine might actually help with long-term brain health. A review of more than 100 studies showed that having up to one drink per day in women and two in men reduced risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s by 23 percent.
Of course, it's important not to overdo it: heavy drinking, defined as more than three to four drinks per day, is associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.
The best red wine? I recommend pinot noir, for its high levels of the antioxidant resveratrol.
The effects of this "miracle spice" are quite evident in rural India, where just about 1 percent of seniors 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease, compared to about 13 percent in the United States. The reason for this discrepancy might be shockingly simple and incredibly inexpensive: Indians eat a lot of turmeric, a spice used in curry that contains curcumin, which has major anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Research shows that turmeric helps the body clear brain-fogging plaques from the brain. And in addition to making you think better, turmeric might make you feel better, since it helps increase serotonin in the brain.
Try to get a little of this spice regularly — not just once a month when you wind up at your favorite Indian restaurant. One easy way to get a daily dose: Mix 1 ounce cold water, ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon in a glass. Bottoms up!
Blueberries are truly brain food. They're high in both flavonoids (antioxidants that help boost memory) and fiber, which manages blood-sugar spikes.
Eating berries regularly has been shown to slow the progression of cognitive decline by up to two and a half years. Other research suggests that blueberries might even help people overcome genetic predispositions for Alzheimer’s disease.
So tomorrow at breakfast ditch the orange juice and toast, since these blood-sugar-spiking foods can cause brain fog. Instead, reach for the slow-burning carbs in blueberries and raspberries.
5. Organic tempeh
Americans tend to overload on processed products like soy protein isolate, textured soy, and soy flour. These are cheap ingredients that food companies often use to add protein or enhance texture.
But soy in a whole, natural form such as tempeh is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids. That includes tryptophan and tyrosine, which we need to make serotonin and dopamine. Soy protein itself may actually increase the levels of feel-good serotonin in the brain and improve mood. And soy lecithin may help people deal with stress by decreasing the amount of stress hormone.
To reap these benefits, aim for a serving of soy per day. The best kind is fermented soy — a category that includes tempeh, miso, natto, and tamari — which has some anti-cancer properties in addition to brain-boosting ones.
6. Olive oil
Olive oil is a potent source of a variety of anti-inflammatory compounds including polyphenols, which may prevent Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
A large-scale study found that people who used olive oil for both cooking and dressing had the best cognitive function as they aged, even compared to those who just used it for one or the other.
Bonus: The olive oil–rich Mediterranean diet has also been shown to protect against depression. Studies show that people who eat a diet high in trans fats have a 48 percent increased risk of depression compared to those who eat a diet high in healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish.