For many, aging isn’t so much about the wrinkles and age spots—the physical signs of the passage of time—than it is about the mental deterioration that comes with getting old. Fortunately, scientists have found ways to counteract the latter, if only temporarily. Certain foods have been found to help boost brain power even in older people, and the best news is that they’re accessible and easy to incorporate in one’s diet. These ones top most doctors’ lists:
Blueberries: In animal studies, blueberries have been shown to prevent oxidative stress in the brain. Simply put, this means they keep brain cells from deteriorating as a result of regular activity. This in turn reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other age-related brain conditions, and may help older people bring their mental capacity to the same level as that of much younger peers. As an added perk, it’s also known to prevent physical signs of aging such as wrinkles and age spots.
Nuts: The idea of nuts as brain food is a longstanding superstition in many cultures, and new research is finding factual links to the claim. The high amounts of Vitamin E in nuts ad seeds is believed to slow cognitive decline. Most nuts and nut products—including peanut butter, as long as it’s unhydrogenated—will give you your daily dose in as little as one ounce per day. Some of the most recommended sources are hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Avocados: It’s been unfairly (although accurately) tagged as a fatty fruit, but the avocado’s other health benefits more than make up for its fat content. It doesn’t improve brain function directly, but it promotes conditions that are vital to mental health, such as healthy blood flow and blood pressure. To prevent overloading on calories, add no more than half an avocado to your diet per day.
Whole-grain foods. Any whole-grain food, including brown rice, can work wonders for your physical and mental health. First marketed as a weight loss and digestion aid, whole grains have also been linked to better brain function, mostly because it promotes blood flow to the brain. Doctors suggest having at least half a cup of oatmeal, a slice of whole-grain bread, or half a cup of brown rice every day. Wheat germ is also highly recommended, although it’s not technically a whole grain: about two tablespoons a day (added to your morning cereal, for example) is ideal.