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We all have “those days” from time to time. You know the type: focusing on a task feels impossible, your thoughts don’t come as clearly as you’d like them to, and your memory fails you over a seemingly unforgettable detail.
While many factors can influence your day-to-day cognitive health—with getting enough sleep tops the list, of course—the foods you eat may have more of an impact than you realize. There’s a reason you may feel lethargic and unfocused after consuming too much sugar or heavy fried foods. Those foods aren’t brain-boosters—and they aren’t doing you any favors now or later. In fact, studies have shown that a healthy lifestyle in your younger years could help reduce your risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s later in life.
If you’re interested in boosting your brain health, here are five quick fixes you can make to your diet.
Fresh produce is packed with nutrients that help your body function well. Many studies over the years have found that certain fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of developing dementia or slow cognitive decline. This led to the development of the MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet designed to feed your brain the foods it needs to stay healthy. And the most important item of produce on the MIND diet list? Green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach.
According to a study completed by the Chicago Health and Aging Project, eating foods rich in saturated fat can more than double your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, you don’t have to give up fat all together; in fact, the same study found that participants who consumed more unsaturated fats—from nuts, fish and vegetable oils—actually reduced their risk for developing dementia or other cognitive diseases.
Whole grains are heart-healthy, but they’re also brain boosters. Eating foods like quinoa, oats and brown rice helps improve the blood flow to your brain. By choosing whole grains over other carbohydrates that are overly starchy and devoid of nutrition, you can keep your brain healthier, longer.
Choline is a nutrient in the B vitamin family that can be beneficial for your long-term memory and cognition. You can add more choline to your diet by eating more salmon, shrimp and eggs. Just don’t skimp and cook only the egg whites—the choline you need is in the yolk.
Here’s the good news: Wine and chocolate also have brain-boosting powers. However, don’t go nuts—this doesn’t mean you should be drinking an entire bottle followed by a candy bar. Instead, research suggests a small glass of red wine (about 5 ounces) and unsweetened cocoa or very dark chocolate is your best bet for improving blood flow to the brain.
You don’t have to completely overhaul your diet to begin feeding your brain better. Instead, start with small changes that can make a big difference over time.
Download our free guide to eating healthy on a busy schedule for more tips and advice to boost brain health.