Superfoods, such as berries and walnuts, can help keep your mind and memory sharp. Research has shown that incorporating these foods into your diet is linked to improved brain health. Simply eating healthy can do wonderful things for your mind.

Let’s take a look at five superfoods that boost brain health and memory.

What defines a superfood?

Superfoods are a category of foods that are rich with nutrients, such as antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. They are often also packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats.

“Superfoods help promote health by increasing your immune function and decreasing your chance of disease prevention or progression,” registered dietitian Beth Czerwony told the Cleveland Health Clinic.

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1. Fatty fish are the ultimate brain food

Fatty or oily fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon and mackerel are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which your body uses to build brain and nerve cells. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to learning and memory, according to research.

A 2017 study found that individuals with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow to the brain, as well as better cognition or thinking abilities.

Research has also found that eating fatty fish can help slow age-related cognitive decline and ward off dementia. A 2018 study found that greater consumption of fish among older adults is associated with lower risk of dementia.

Also, according to a recent study published in the journal Neurology, middle-aged adults with diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids had larger hippocampal volumes — the hippocampus part of the brain plays a vital role in memory and learning. These adults were more equipped to understand complex concepts.

2. Walnuts might improve memory

Nuts, like walnuts, are a great source of healthy fats, per Harvard Health. Walnuts are associated with improved memory and cognitive test scores.

A 2015 study from UCLA found a link between walnut consumption and cognitive test scores. U.S. adults with higher walnut consumption had significantly higher test scores as well as improved memory, concentration and speed at which they processed information. This positive association was observed regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.

Additionally, a 2020 study on mice suggests that walnut consumption is beneficial to brain health. Researchers found that a walnut-rich diet had beneficial impacts on memory, learning, motor coordination, anxiety and locomotor activity.

Walnuts are not the only nut that improve the brain and memory. A 2015 study found over the course of a few years that women who regularly ate nuts had a sharper memory than those who did not.

3. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that benefits the brain

This deep-yellow spice boasts loads of health benefits. It is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can improve brain function, memory and ease depression. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can cross the blood-brain barrier and directly enter the brain and benefit brain cells, according to Healthline.

A 2019 study found that even a short-term consumption of curcumin boosted brain cell growth. Although research is limited, it could also help delay age-related mental decline.

Curcumin can also improve memory in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2018 study. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques, a hallmark of the disease, another study found.

4. Dark leafy greens can slow cognitive decline

Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach and Swiss chard are beneficial to brain health and can help slow down cognitive decline. A daily serving of dark, leafy greens can boost cognitive functions, which includes memory, mental response time, decision-making processes and even mood.

2018 study, published in the journal Neurology, found a link between individuals who ate one daily serving of green leafy vegetables and slower cognitive decline in skills like memory.

Researchers followed a group of nearly 1,000 dementia-free older adults for an average of five years. They found that those who ate at least one daily serving of leafy green vegetables were about 11 years younger cognitively than those who rarely or never ate dark leafy greens.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” said Martha Morris, the senior author of the study who studies nutrition and brain health at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, per the Los Angeles Times. “Eating these leafy greens was independently associated with slower cognitive decline. That tells you this single food group contains so many nutrients it could be brain-protective.”

5. Berries improve brain function and memory

Berries such as strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are packed with flavonoids, which are known to help improve memory and slow age-related cognitive decline, reports Scientific American.

“Adding a handful of berries to the diet each day is one of the first and easiest changes I recommend to those looking to improve their brain health,” Uma Naidoo, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told the American Association of Retired Persons.

Research from King’s College London found that just a handful of wild blueberries a day could improve brain function. Over the course of 12 weeks, researchers found that individuals who consumed wild blueberry powder experienced improved memory and more accuracy on attention tasks.

“It’s clear from this study that consuming wild blueberries is beneficial to cognitive function,” said professor Claire Williams, chair of the Neuroscience Department for University of Reading, per King’s College.

“The group who had the wild blueberry powder showed signs of better memory and greater mental flexibility when completing cognitive tasks.”

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