Experiencing a slight shift in your memory and cognitive health is a normal part of aging, but people can experience this at different levels of intensity. In fact, around 10-20% of adults over the age of 65 in the United States experience mild cognitive impairment, which experts say falls in between what is “normal aging” and what would be considered dementia. In other words, memory issues related to aging are very common.
When it comes to improving your memory and slowing the brain aging process, your diet and lifestyle choices play a key role. Read on to learn what dietitians have to say about the best eating habits for a sharper memory. Then for more healthy aging tips, check out 6 Fruits That Reduce Inflammation and Slow Aging.
Getting enough healthy fats in your diet is an excellent way to care for your brain and keep your memory sharp.
“Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in omega 3 fatty acids,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board. “These fatty acids are known to be good for the brain because around 60% of the brain is composed of fat, much of it being omega-3 fatty acids. This is why omega-3s are essential for memory and learning.”
According to a study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, regular consumption of fatty fish was found to help improve cognitive function in healthy adults over the age of 65.
Let’s break down fatty acids even more. Two of the most common types of polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6, “and the brain’s physical structure is comprised primarily of a balance of these two essential fats,” says Rachel Fine, RDN and founder of To The Pointe Nutrition. This is why Fine suggests incorporating flax seeds into your diet, as they are “rich in polyunsaturated fats, specifically omega-6 and omega-3.”
A review published in Nutrition Journal found that there is an association with dietary sources of omega-3 and omega-6 contributing to better cognitive health in older adults, although they do state that more research still needs to be done.
According to Young, you may want to find more ways to incorporate blueberries into your daily diet.
“Blueberries are high in antioxidants and flavonoids that might prevent cognitive decline and improve memory,” says Young, “and they specifically contain anthocyanins, a compound that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which prevent brain-age delay.”
Studies have shown that the anthocyanins in blueberries specifically can help with short and long-term memory, with some instances reported of improved mood, too.
And lastly, loading up on plenty of vegetables throughout the day can give your brain the helpful nutrients and antioxidants it needs.
“Vitamins A, E, and C are found in many fruits and vegetables, and these vitamins are potent antioxidants, acting as direct scavengers of oxidants, natural byproducts of metabolism,” says Fine.
If you’re looking for a specific veggie to try that has ultimate brain benefits, you may want to try cooking up some broccoli.
“Broccoli contains a significant amount of the fat-soluble vitamin K, which is used to form a fatty acid, sphingolipids, which takes up a large portion of brain cells,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD at Balance One Supplements. “In fact, studies have shown that elderly individuals who have a diet high in vitamin K have better memory and overall cognitive function.”
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