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Food for a better brain

Berny Unruh, K-State Extension
Berny Unruh

I am fascinated by how the brain works and I try to read all the latest books on the subject. We are supposed to get wiser with age, but I have learned that is not always the case. However, studies show that there are some things we can do to improve our mental function. One very important component to a healthy brain is better nutrition. In addition, getting enough sleep and exercising will add brain power. 

            The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has identified four types of food that specifically help boost our brain power:

Vegetables

Getting adequate veggie-intake, especially cruciferous ones including broccoli, cabbage and dark leafy greens, may help improve memory. Include kale in your salad or substitute collard greens for a tortilla in your next sandwich wrap. Broccoli stir-fry also is an excellent option for lunch or dinner.

Berries

Dark berries especially, such as blackberries, blueberries and cherries — are a rich source of anthocyanins and other flavonoids that may boost memory function. Enjoy a handful of berries for a snack, mixed into cereal or baked into an antioxidant-rich dessert. You can reap these benefits from fresh, frozen or dried berries and cherries.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Essential for good brain health, omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, in particular, may help improve memory in healthy young adults. Seafood, algae and fatty fish — including salmon, bluefin tuna, sardines and herring — are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Substitute fish for meat a couple times each week to get a healthy dose. Grill, bake or broil fish for ultimate flavor and nutrition. If you don't normally eat fish, discuss other food options and supplementation with your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist. You can get omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, seaweed or microalgae supplements.

Walnuts

Walnuts also may improve cognitive function. Snack on a handful of walnuts to satisfy midday hunger, add them to oatmeal or a salad for crunch or mix them into a vegetable stir-fry for extra protein.

Nutrition plays a major role in brain development. Plan your meals carefully and add brain-rich foods to your plate each day. Eatright.org is an excellent website for additional information on health, nutrition and fitness.

            Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at bunruh@ksu.edu.