Nutrition is of course extremely important for your brain. If you eat more healthy, you will improve your cognitive abilities, memory, and your mood.
After all, food comprises the fuel and building blocks of your brain.
These are some foods that are exceptionally good for your brain:
These fats are found in fatty fish (such as salmon, anchovies, herring and mackerel), walnuts, flaxseed and chia seeds.
Omega-3 fats are literally the building blocks of our brain cells: they are important components of the cell membrane and ensure good communication between the brain cells. Additionally, omega-3 fats have countless other functions in the brain and body, such as reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and regulating metabolism. Especially curbing inflammation is important, because continuous low-grade inflammation can damage the brain and accelerate aging (this is called “inflammaging”).
Blue and red fruit (but especially blue fruit)
Blue fruits are for example blueberries, bilberries and blackberries.
Red fruits are for example strawberries and raspberries.
Especially blue fruit is very healthy for the brain, and contains substances such as anthocyanidins, which protect the brain cells from damage, and can slow down aging.
Green leafy vegetables Spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kale and sprouts are just of a few examples of green leafy vegetables.
They contain a lot of vitamins, minerals and many other healthy substances that are good for your brain. People who regularly eat leafy green vegetables have brains that were up to eleven years younger compared to people who did not regularly consume green leafy vegetables (R).
Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) Substances in cacao (such as flavanols) protect your brain, blood vessels and can even slow down cognitive decline. Dark chocolate can also improve cognitive performance, partly because it contains substances that widen the blood vessels so that more oxygen and nutrients go to the brain cells.
Olive oil Contains a variety of healthy substances that can reduce inflammation, or that can reduce protein accumulation, a process that plays an important role in aging. Examples of such substances are tyrosol and oleocanthal.
Herbs Rosemary, sage, oregano, turmeric and other herbs reduce inflammation and can protect the DNA from damage, all of which the brain is very sensitive to.
Tea and coffee Contain a variety of substances that are healthy for the brain and blood vessels, such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). However, drink no more than five cups of coffee a day, and this best not in the late afternoon or evening – otherwise you will have more difficulties falling asleep at night.
Reduce sugar and starch intake Soft drinks, biscuits, pastries and other sweets cause your sugar levels to rise and can damage your brain. But also eat less starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. These are made up of starch: long chains of glucose. These starch products therefore also consist mainly of sugar. Too much sugar
damages your brain (scientists call “Alzheimer’s disease” also “type 3 diabetes”). Sugar can cause inflammation and create glucose cross-links, all which play a role in aging. There are also very few vitamins, minerals and other healthy substances in starch products (compared to, for example, vegetables).
Avoid unhealthy fats These are trans-fats in fried food, junk food, ready-to-eat meals, cakes and pastries. Such fats are very bad for your brain.
Do not drink too much alcohol Regularly consuming more than two glasses of alcohol a day can damage your brain. Also, drinking once in a while five or more glasses in a few hours (binge-drinking) can damage the brain. Limit your alcohol consumption to one glass of alcohol per day, with ideally some alcohol-free days per week.
Physical activity is very important for a healthy brain. Exercise ensures that all kinds of substances are released in the brain, which keep your brain young for longer, reduce the risk of dementia and make you function better cognitively (R, R).
Exercise can also improve your emotional state. Research shows that regular exercise is at least as effective as taking antidepressants. Not only sports, but also dancing is very healthy for your brain (and your body) (R, R).
People are social beings. We need each other to feel happy. Research shows that social contacts keep your brain young<. Having few social contacts is unhealthy and increases your risk of dementia,
heart disease and general mortality (R). Go out with a friend, contact a former colleague or classmate, visit family, join an association or become a volunteer.
Relaxing is very healthy. When you relax, various substances are released that are healthy for your body and brain, such as endorphins. You also produce fewer substances that damage the brain, such as cortisol, a stress hormone that causes
the blood vessels to clog faster, increases blood pressure, and increases sugar levels. Do meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. You can also do this online, or via meditation apps on your smartphone.
The brain needs sleep to recover and repair itself. Sufficient sleep keeps the brain healthy. People who sleep too little are more at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (and a lot of other diseases). Here you find dozens of tips to sleep better.
Many people think that they eat ‘healthy’ and ‘varied’. But is that really so?How do you get enough vitamin D when you live in a country where it often rains, or that is situated on a high latitude (high above the equator)?
Our diets, after all, contain very little vitamin D; you need sunlight to produce enough vitamin D. Where do you find sufficient iodine if you do not often eat fish and seaweed? How do you get enough zinc and vitamin B12 if you eat little or no meat?
Also, when you get older, the body absorbs less nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, from food.
Many people also eat lots of grain products, which ensure less absorption of important minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron. This because substances in grain bind these minerals so they cannot get absorbed by the gut.
Additionally, many people don’t eatenough vegetables andother healthy foods which results in all kinds of deficiencies. This can give rise to all sorts of vague but burdensome complaints such as fatigue, concentration problems, depressive feelings, and so on. And this while everything is “okay” according to a blood test (standard blood tests do not check everything and often give false negative results).
These are some examples of supplements that are important for a healthy brain: B-vitamins (especially vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and vitamin B9), zinc, selenium, vitamin D and iodine.
However, no supplement can provide the hundreds of others micronutrients that are important for good brain health, and which you have to derive from a varied, healthy diet.
A lot of research shows that the bacteria in your gut (the microbiome) play an important role in the health of your brain. They also impact your cognitive abilities and even your feelings.
Scientists call this the “gut-brain axis”. The bacteria in your gut secrete substances, such as neurotransmitters, neuropeptides and inflammatory molecules, which have an influence on the brain.
For a healthy microbiome you need to eat a lot of water-soluble fibers(such as inulin) from vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes and mushrooms. Also eat less sugar and starch (including bread, potatoes, pasta and rice), since starch is made up of glucose. Too much glucose can cause overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut (which are fond of glucose).
Also important is preventing deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, iodine and selenium: these vitamins provide a healthy intestinal immune system that keeps the microbiome under control and well balanced.
You can also take a probiotic, but make sure that it contains enough different types of bacteria (not just lactobacilli), and try different brands, because everyone responds in a different way to a specific probiotic.
Your brain is like a muscle: the more you train it, the better it becomes. Instead of watching passively television, mindlessly browsing on Facebook, or gaming like a zombie, solve puzzles, play brain games (download brain training apps on your mobile), learn a new language, play games like chess, checkers, mastermind, four-in-a-row, or bridge, become a volunteer,
learn a new hobby, read a book, try to learn as many things as possible by heart (such as phone numbers, quotes, songs, …), learn to play an instrument, learn to dance, … In short, train your brain!
Smoking unleashes hundreds of unhealthy substances in your blood which damage the brain, reduce cognitive functioning and increase your chances of dementia (and increase your risk of lung cancer, kidney cancer, heart attacks, strokes, emphysema, wrinkles, impotence and so on …).
Your brain loves new things. Novelties keep your brain sharp and healthy. Go on a journey, make new friends, learn a new hobby, read daily motivational quotes, download podcasts to learn things, read an interesting book, listen to an audio book, discover new music. In short, be curious, inspired and motivated.