It’s the perfect oatmeal topper.
As you age, it becomes more and more important to prioritize brain health. The number of people in the United States living with dementia is increasing, in part because people are living longer. In the United States, 22 percent of adults aged 85 to 89 have dementia and 33 percent of adults aged 90 or older have been diagnosed.
While we cannot control the fate of our health, scientific studies show that certain foods are linked to benefit brain health. (The reverse is also true; certain foods have been linked to cognitive decline and a higher risk for dementia). According to numerous scientific studiesThe best way to eat with brain health in mind is to eat a plant-based diet rich in green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts and seeds, berries, beans and legumes, whole grains, fish, poultry and olive oil.
If this sounds very different from the way you eat today, making small, incremental changes to your diet can be more beneficial than trying to change everything at once. Don’t know where to start? Neurologist Dr. Shae Datta, MD, who is co-director of NYU Langone’s Concussion Center, says there’s one brain-healthy food she’d recommend more than any other: walnuts.
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Why are nuts so good for brain health?
“Walnuts offer twice as many antioxidants as other nuts,” Dr. Datta says about why they’re his favorite brain food. In fact, she points out that they also have a little brain shape. Dr. Datta says that in addition to being rich in antioxidants, walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid.
Dr. Datta says that antioxidants and ALA omega-3 fatty acids they are both linked to fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn helps prevent cognitive decline. registered dietitian, Julie Andrews, RDN, who wrote The Mind Diet Plan and Cookbook: Recipes and Lifestyle Guidelines to Help Prevent Alzheimer’s, It also says that nuts are beneficial for brain health for this reason. “Walnuts are rich in vitamin E, B vitamins and omega 3, which all studies show are good for our brain health because of their metabolic functions and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” he says.
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How often should you eat nuts to really support your brain? Andrews says that the MIND diet (which is partially based on the Mediterranean diet and was specifically designed to prevent or slow cognitive decline), calls for eating five one-ounce servings of nuts per week. “Walnuts are especially beneficial because of their omega-3 and antioxidant content, making them one of the best nut choices to opt for,” he says.
Of course, there is no shortage of ways to integrate nuts into your diet. While they can be enjoyed as is, Andrews says they can also provide nuttiness and crunch to salads, curries, stir-fries and lettuce wraps, and even add texture to desserts. “You can slap it on yogurt or a fruit parfait for an easy boost of nutrition,” she says. Andrews adds that nut flour can be used as the basis for bakery products, such as cakes, muffins and bread.
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What if I’m allergic to nuts?
As nuts are beneficial for brain health, not everyone likes them and some people are allergic to them. If this is the case for you, don’t sweat it; there are many other brains-healthy foods you can focus instead, like seeds and berries.
Whether you go all-out on nuts or opt for nuts or berries instead, Andrews says it’s important to eat a wide range of nutrient-dense foods. Complementing your oatmeal with nuts in the morning don’t compensate by eating nutrient-poor foods the rest of the day. “The key is to include a wide range of nutrient-dense foods with a focus on those containing vitamin E, B vitamins, omega-3 and flavonoids“says Andrews. If you are not familiar with flavonoids, Andrews explains that they are a natural compound of phytochemicals found in plant foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This includes berries, tea, cocoa, soybeans, legumes, certain fruits , vegetables and herbs.
It bears repeating that there is no surefire way to prevent dementia. But you can proactively take steps to support your brain health through what you eat every day. Now that you know exactly how, go, well, nuts!
After that, check out these 23 ways to keep your mind strong at any age.