As bodies age, bones get weaker, muscles lose flexibility, and short-term memory can falter. Many people implement preventative practices to keep their minds and bodies strong. Certain actions have been proven to help support memory, including implementing routines and structure, staying active, and maintaining a healthy diet.
Whether you want to improve your own brain health or support an aging loved one, a healthy diet is a fantastic place to start. Specific foods contain powerful vitamins and nutrients that boost brain function. Are you ready to learn more about how a healthy diet supports memory? Let’s take a look at the key components of a healthy brain and specific foods that can boost memory.
The 6 Pillars of Brain Health
There are helpful guideposts to follow when it comes to brain health at any age. However, these pillars are especially critical in aging adults. Implement the following six cornerstones into your life as much as possible to foster a healthy brain and memory:
1. Food and Nutrition
That’s right, healthy food and robust nutrition is the first pillar of brain health. Many healthcare providers encourage aging adults to follow a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in:
- Whole grains
- Leafy green vegetables
Studies have shown that fresh, healthy food in a Mediterranean-style diet may reduce the risk of different types of dementia. At its core, the food in a Mediterranean diet is meant to be shared and enjoyed in the good company of family and friends, which brings us to the next pillar.
2. Social Interaction
A thriving social community for aging adults is worth its weight in gold. Social networks provide support, combat depression, reduce stress, and sharpen intellectual stimulation. Participating in activities with like-minded people and maintaining lasting friendships, marriages, and familial relationships provides many protective benefits against cognitive decline. Senior living communities allow seniors to connect with one another without having to drive or travel, and choose how much or little they want to participate in daily activities and meals.
On days where social interaction is minimal, therapeutic pet companions also offer incredible memory-related benefits.
3. Quality Sleep
Not only does a good night’s sleep put you in a better mood and recharge your body, but it also sharpens your brain. In addition to quality sleep, daily relaxation is equally important for brain health. Practicing regular meditation is a fantastic way to sharpen your brain and reduce stress.
4. Mental Fitness
Learning new things shouldn’t be reserved for school children. At any age, mental fitness is an integral way to fight off cognitive decline. Some of the best ways to practice mental fitness include:
- Reading books
- Taking up new hobbies
- Playing trivia games
- Learning a new language
- Taking a class
- Picking up a musical instrument
5. Medical Health
While many medical conditions occur outside of people’s control, there are medical practices you can implement to stay on top of your brain function. Stay healthy by:
- Taking prescribed medication as directed
- Keep blood pressure at a healthy level
- Reduce sugar and salt
- Schedule regular doctor appointments
People with diabetes or obesity have a greater risk of developing dementia as they age. So in many cases, medical health ties in directly with a healthy diet and our final pillar: physical exercise.
6. Physical Exercise
Yes, physical exercise boosts brain function, but it also improves your mood, helps you maintain an ideal weight, reduces your risk of heart disease and cancer, helps you sleep better, and keeps your bones healthy! With all these fantastic benefits, it’s easy to understand why a regular exercise regime is essential for people of all ages. Some of the best methods of exercise for aging adults include:
- Water aerobics
The Best Foods to Boost Memory
Now that you understand the six essential pillars of brain health, let’s dive deeper into health and nutrition. Studies have shown that aging adults with health-focused diets are 24 percent less likely to experience cognitive decline. There are certain foods that offer extra benefits for brain function. Some of the best foods that support memory are:
Different types of fatty fish consistently rank as some of the best brain foods. Your body is made of 60 percent water, but your brain is made of 60 percent fat, with omega-3 fatty acids making up half of that fat. Omega-3s build brain and nerve cells and are an essential component for memory and learning. A lack of omega-3s has been linked to learning impairments, mental decline, and depression.
So, where do fish fit into this? Just like how you need to stay hydrated to accommodate your body’s water levels, you need to provide fat and omega-3s for your brain. Fatty fish have high lipid contents and are rich in omega-3 acids. Regularly eating fatty fish produces more gray matter in the brain, which controls memory, emotion, and decision making. Some excellent examples of fatty fish include:
- Albacore tuna
There’s a reason adults are always encouraging children to eat their broccoli. Broccoli is a powerful leafy green vegetable that is packed with antioxidants. But the real power of broccoli comes with its high levels of vitamin K.
One cup of cooked broccoli offers the entire recommended daily intake of vitamin Kー a fat-soluble vitamin linked to better memory and cognitive function. Additionally, broccoli provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Are you excited to see chocolate on this list? That’s right, dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or greater is packed with compounds that boost brain function. Most importantly, dark chocolate contains antioxidants, flavonoids, and caffeine.
Flavonoids in dark chocolate make their home in areas of the brain that handle learning and memory, such as the amygdala, hippocampus, cerebellum, and prefrontal cortex. Not to mention, chocolate is proven to be a positive mood-booster!
Other brain-boosting foods beyond fatty fish, broccoli, and dark chocolate include:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Whole grains
All of these foods offer different vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that support brain function and overall health.
Set Your Brain up for Success with a Healthy Diet
All of the pillars and foods listed here are thought to positively affect brain health and memory. Remember that the key to brain health is to find a balance with all of the key pillars and various foods. If you have an excellent healthy diet but ignore social interaction or physical exercise, you may not reap all the fantastic benefits. The same goes with the food you eat; a well-rounded diet that incorporates many of the foods listed here will serve you better than if you only focus on one or two of the foods.
If you are looking to support an aging loved one by creating a healthy diet for them, increasing their social life, or providing consistent medical care, consider scheduling a tour at one of the friendly New Perspective communities.