Healthy food not only nourishes us and gives our body energy, it can also be great for the brain. Not to mention taste delicious, too. To keep your memory sharp and your mind focused, add these tasty treats into your daily meal plan.
Wine fights damaging plaques.
Women who treat themselves to 6 oz. of wine a day are 55 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and twice as likely to score high on tests of brain function after age 60. That’s the word from French researchers, who say wine’s alcohol and phenolics boost the production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) by as much as 15 percent. This powerful anti-aging hormone speeds repair of worn brain neurons, plus stalls the formation of Alzheimer’s plaques.
Cheese fuels frontal lobe activity.
Dairy’s unique blend of whey protein and calcium increases electrical activity in the frontal lobe — the brain region that governs alertness. The payoff: Researchers at the University of Maine in Orono have found that incorporating 3 oz. of cheese (or 2 cups of milk or yogurt) daily sharpens concentration and memory by as much as 35 percent in three weeks.
Avocados rev brain cell communication.
Add one small avocado to your daily diet and you’ll cut your risk of brain fog, memory lapses, and poor focus in half in two weeks, say researchers at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. The reason? Avocados are rich in pantothenic acid and vitamin K — a nutrient duo that heightens communication between brain neurons, plus increases the production of the focus-enhancing neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Peanuts heal injured neurons.
Enjoying 1/3 cup of peanuts (or 2 Tbs. of sugar-free peanut butter) a day sharpens memory by 41 percent and cuts the risk of cognitive decline by 37 percent, Canadian scientists say. How? Manganese, copper, and p-Coumaric acid in the crunchers speed healing of damaged neurons — as long as the nutrients aren’t paired with brain-aging sugar.
Bell peppers increase cerebral blood flow.
These colorful gems are packed with carotenoids — plant compounds that strengthen the capillaries that shuttle blood and nutrients to brain cells. Finnish researchers say enjoying 3 cups of bell peppers a week cuts your risk of memory lapses and premature brain aging by 55 percent, plus helps your brain function like it’s 6 years younger.
Chocolate activates the focus hormone.
If you feel scattered or foggy, eating 1 oz. of dark chocolate can improve your focus, concentration, and recall for 2 1/2 hours, Harvard researchers assert. Credit goes to dark chocolate’s theobromine, which helps trigger the creation of the brain-energizing, focus-boosting neurotransmitter dopamine.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.