Posted on July 14, 2023 by Austin Lang
Posted on July 14, 2023 by Austin Lang
Everyone has ideas about what the best foods for brain health are. Even a cursory glance at your local drugstore will reveal rows of supplements designed to improve memory and bolster brain health. Still, the science connecting nutrition and cognition can be a bit fuzzy at times.
The brain is, after all, a series of incredibly complex chemical reactions, and the influence that food can have on brain health for seniors is a bit difficult to trace at times. Still, with concerns about mental health and cognitive decline weighing heavily on the minds of seniors, it’s reasonable to do whatever you can to boost your brainpower with your diet.
We can’t speak for the efficacy of those memory supplements from your local drug store, especially since supplements like that aren’t regulated. What we can do is share some foods that have scientific evidence linking them to improvements in cognitive health. If you’re looking to get started in making the best diet for brain health, these are the foods to explore.
Those fish oil supplements they sell at every drug store might taste awful, but there’s some real evidence behind their efficacy. In fact, fatty fish like salmon and tuna may be among the best foods for Alzheimer’s prevention. Why? The answer is in the Omega-3 fatty acids.
You see, fat isn’t inherently a bad thing, provided you get it from the right sources and in the correct amounts. Omega-3s play a big role in cardiovascular health, and can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. However, there is also evidence that they lower blood levels of beta amyloid: a protein which clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. We still don’t know for certain if amyloids are the causative agent of Alzheimer’s, but reducing the production of beta amyloid may play a role in preventing the development of the disease.
Of course, you don’t need to eat fish to get Omega-3s. Chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans provide an alternative source for those on a strictly plant-based diet.
Another reason why fish and nuts make for good brain food? They’re high in selenium! Now, if you’re like most people, you’re probably familiar with selenium as the key ingredient in dandruff shampoo (as selenium sulfide).
Fortunately, the selenium we can eat is much tastier than the kind you rub on your scalp. You can find it in fish, beef, turkey, chicken, whole grains, beans, and nuts, with Brazil nuts being particularly rich in the substance. Its ubiquitousness is a good thing, as selenium is a common component of many proteins and enzymes, which play key roles in bodily health.
Like Omega-3s, there is also a potential link to improved cognitive health. However, we don’t recommend picking up a selenium supplement unless prescribed by a doctor: too much selenium can be toxic. Even eating too many Brazil nuts can lead to mild toxicity. A balanced diet is more than enough to keep your selenium at a healthy level.
When it comes to the best foods for depression, it’s easy to get caught in a vicious cycle. You’re depressed, so you don’t want to make food, so you eat poorly. The poor dietary choices exacerbate your symptoms of depression. Repeat ad nauseam.
Now, there is some evidence that a diet rich in plant based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries is linked to a decreased risk of depression, but saying the best way to cure depression is to eat more salad is incredibly reductive. Depression is complicated, and while the nutrients in plants (like vitamin K, beta carotene, flavonoids, and lutein) can certainly play a role in improving your depression, there’s no magical mental health diet that will cure your depression. If you’re experiencing problems with mental health, contact a professional to discuss your concerns.
That being said, there is another benefit of trying to eat healthy. Namely, the fact that the mere act of self care plays a powerful role in affecting our mood. You see, a common symptom of depression is the neglect of one’s self care. Whether you’re miserable and want to fill the void, you’re filled with self-loathing, or you just can’t feel anything, the energy to prepare a healthy meal just isn’t there.
Often, people with depression will then turn to fast, easy to prepare, unhealthy foods that can be detrimental to one’s health. However, even the mere process of preparing a meal can help you get out of a depression induced funk. It’s reinforcing the fact that doing things for yourself is worth something, and the nutritional benefits don’t hurt either. In short, the best foods for mental health are ones that encourage you to practice self care, even for a moment.
Considering how ubiquitous coffee is, finding out that it’s good for you might be a bit surprising. Well, there are some caveats there.
It’s true that caffeine (found in coffee and tea) can improve focus, alertness, and mood. Coffee and tea also contain antioxidants and other brain healthy substances like flavonoids. However, these benefits can easily be overshadowed if you aren’t consuming coffee and tea in moderation. A cup or two is fine, even with cream and sugar. However, if your daily coffee is a frappuccino, any benefits of drinking coffee are going to be drowned out by the obscene amounts of sugar and saturated fats. We’re talking more sugar than a can of Coke, here.
Similarly, excessive amounts of coffee and hyper-caffeinated energy drinks can lead to increased anxiety and other adverse health effects.
If you’re looking for a brain-healthy recipe that isn’t too difficult, why not try this Omega-3 and selenium rich recipe. Salmon is one of the best sources of Omega-3, which is further supplemented by the soybean-based miso glaze. A blend of veggies adds a touch of color to the dish while adding some essential nutrients.
½ lb salmon filet (fresh or frozen, not smoked), patted dry and deboned.
1 tbsp white miso (available at most asian markets)
½ tbsp brown sugar
1 ½ tbsp Tamari soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
2 tsp fresh grated ginger.
2 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Several oz. of assorted vegetables, such as asparagus, mushroom, red bell pepper, or snap pea.
If you’re looking for a Medicare plan that can support your mental and cognitive health, we can help. Our licensed agents can help you find a plan that meets your unique needs by exploring benefits available in your area. That’s really food for thought! Call us at (800) 950-0608 or enter your zip code to begin your search today.