A sad, but true, fact of human existence is the inevitability that our minds will decline as we age. Over the course of our lives, our cognitive abilities peak, plateau, and eventually begin to dip as we reach certain age milestones; for example, processing speed begins to decrease in our late teen years, visual working memory peaks in our mid-30s, and yet our vocabulary continues to climb in our 60s and beyond.
Although keeping physically active, socializing with friends and family, and engaging in intellectually stimulating activities like reading and puzzles are among the ways to keep the mind as sharp as a tack, the foods we eat will also provide an extra edge for cognitive function.
Keep your grey matter healthy and eat smart with these 8 brain boosting foods:
1. Fatty Fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful brain food. Found in seafood and shellfish, the best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, herring, mussels, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and trout.
At each stage of life, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain health. During pregnancy, women who consumed seafood regularly or supplemented with fish oil had increased fetal growth in the womb, which provided a boost in brain and eye development. Mothers who took fish oil while breastfeeding resulted in their children having higher verbal intelligence and visual recognition memory by the age of four; women who did not consume omega-3s during the same period resulted in their children having reduced social skills and lower IQs.
Even as adults, our brains continue to benefit from omega-3 fatty acids. Taking a daily fish oil supplement for 35 days resulted in a sizeable boost to cognitive performance, attention, and reaction time compared with a placebo.
Omega-3 fatty acids also help to protect the aging brain. Subjects between the ages of 50 to 75 experienced improved executive function and memory, an increase in the volume of grey matter, and strengthened brain structures after 26 weeks of omega-3 supplementation.
On top of its ability to boost brainpower, omega-3 fatty acids help to stabilize mood and are an effective preventative for clinical depression and other serious psychiatric ailments. Mood is important for overall cognition since we learn much better when we are happy.