Foods to Power Your Brain and Slow Cognitive Decline
LAST UPDATED: November 10, 2022
The brain is a complex organ that requires many nutrients to function properly. As we age, it becomes harder to recall names and words. It’s also more difficult to maintain focus on a task for an extended period of time. This is a natural process known as cognitive decline. Diet can play an important role in slowing the rate of cognitive decline by improving blood flow and boosting levels of brain-boosting nutrients like omega-3s, folate, zinc, iron, and vitamin E.
In this blog post, we will review how to achieve health and wellness if you want your mind to stay sharp as long as possible! We will shine a light on defining cognitive decline, how to prevent it/how it affects us. We’ll also discuss what foods to include in your diet so that you can power up your brain and slow down cognitive decline, and how supportive supplements can help keep you there.
What is cognitive decline and how do you prevent it?
You may be experiencing a decline in your cognitive function and not even know it. Cognitive impairment is when a person has trouble remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life. This can happen naturally as we age or become more common due to health conditions like diabetes or heart disease.
A person’s cognitive abilities decline as they age. In the elderly, dementia is common and can cause amnesia or delirium for periods of time before their disease progresses even further to become fully unmanageable by themselves. In other words, the older you get, the more likely it will be that your memory isn’t what it used to be.
Some Signs of Cognitive Decline:
- Forgetting appointments and dates
- Forgetting recent conversations and events
- Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions and plans
- Having a hard time understanding directions or instructions
- Losing your sense of direction
- Losing the ability to organize tasks
- Becoming more impulsive
Mild Cognitive Impairment may be caused by a range of conditions, but the causes are not yet well understood. In some cases, other illnesses or conditions can cause these symptoms to develop in mild cognitive impairment sufferers. Some examples include:
- Depression, stress, and anxiety
- Thyroid, kidney, or liver problems
- Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
- Diseases or conditions that affect blood flow in the brain
- Eye or hearing problems
- Side effects of certain prescriptions
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” — Benjamin Franklin
Biohacking your brain’s health is key when understanding its needs; diet and mental state play a big role in determining its health. While there is no exact way to eradicate cognitive decline and dementia, and these are strategies that can be helpful in the path to reducing the risks.
“The 2015 FINGER trial — a randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of research) — found less cognitive decline over two years in older adults who maintained a combination of habits, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking part in social events. The adults in the study did not have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), but some were at risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Similar trials are being conducted around the world.”
It is essential to try to prevent an ailment than to cure it once it’s already manifested itself, and there are some preventative measures you can take, like:
- Regular Exercise: Exercise has been shown to help reduce the onset of cognitive decline in older adults. The benefits of exercise don’t stop with just preventing cognitive decline; it also helps improve mood and sleep quality.
- Social Activities: Being busy shows that your brain/body is active and encouraged to discover new things.
- Puzzles/Brainy Tasks: Engage your brain and focus on activities that require concentration and are easily practiced daily.
- A Balanced Diet: Eating an unhealthy diet can lead to obesity which has been linked with higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Focus on eating whole foods that are rich in antioxidants like blueberries, strawberries, spinach, kale, garlic cloves, and broccoli. More on this matter below!
It is important to note that health and wellness are connected. Our mental state can oftentimes dictate our mood, as well as the food we eat or vitamins we take, both affecting how good we feel and creating a domino effect on our lifestyle.
As nutritionists emphasize, following an eating plan that’s rich in fruits and vegetables can make all the difference as you age; they are rich in antioxidants which could protect against damage caused by free radicals that attack cells in our body over time – just one way this helps slow cognitive decline. Fats should come from monounsaturated or polyunsaturated sources rather than saturated fats (such as butter), while protein needs guidance but try focusing more heavily on plant-based proteins such soybeans/legumes instead if possible for now until we know better what these options might do.
Omega-3s are one of the biggest cognitive health recommended healthy fats, found in fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. These foods provide essential fats that can improve mood, memory, and cognitive functioning while reducing inflammation. The best way to get these fats into your diet is to eat one or more servings of fish per week or take an Omega-3 supplement daily. Walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds all contain beneficial plant-based fats called ALA’s (alpha-linolenic acid).
Caffeine provides energy while antioxidants fight off free radicals, and can support brain health by improving alertness, concentration, and mood. Blueberries contain antioxidants that may help slow the progression of cognitive decline. They are an excellent source of fibre, Vitamin C, manganese, folate, and phytonutrients such as anthocyanins which not only help shield our cells from damage but also have been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease blood sugar levels.
Broccoli contains a high level of Vitamin K, which helps with brain development and maintenance. This vitamin also is instrumental in reducing inflammation – another major cause for cognitive decline. Chocolate (dark chocolate) is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants that act as natural anti-inflammatory agents. Flavonoids also stimulate the production of new brain cells and can improve blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa than milk chocolate does, so it has a higher concentration of these beneficial compounds. Eggs are a great source of choline, which is effective in reducing the risk of cognitive decline. They are also high in B vitamins, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Considering a nutrigenomics diet – a diet based on your genes and lifestyle – which uses DNA testing to determine what vitamins and supplements your body is lacking in achieving its optimal health may be important in preventing cognitive decline. This will ensure that the nutrients you’re getting are doing their job and improving your overall health.
Impact on the younger generation
Young people should be eating these ‘brain foods’ even if they might not be worried about memory loss yet. A young adult is oftentimes exposed to pressures of life and decision-making that can affect their cognitive health, and a healthy diet and balanced lifestyle, along with vitamin and supplement intake can benefit them greatly and prevent future issues.
When you are tired or distracted your mind can’t focus for very long before something else distracts these processes- which could lead not only to a decline in performance but also negative impacts on mental health such as slower decision making.
Typical deficiencies in younger people include Iron, B12, and Vitamin D. These can also happen as a result of alcohol consumption when drugs like birth control strip away nutrients from pill formulation due to its toxicity and in certain cases, chronic illnesses such as celiac disease where absorption is impaired.
As we mentioned, there is no cure for dementia but there are some steps that can help slow the roll of cognitive decline:
- Avoid smoking
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Manage health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
- Stay mentally alert by learning new hobbies, reading, etcetera
- Stay involved socially
- Consider psychology visits
- Hikes, nature exposure to reduce screen-time
- And of course, get plenty of exercise, and eat healthy foods (recommendations above)
Support your brain with Autumn
It’s not just about getting enough of the right kind of nutrients, it is also about which nutrients your body may be lacking. Deficiency may occur when our digestive system doesn’t work properly and absorb some essential minerals or trace elements from food sources like soils which is where they’re most often found.
Considering supplements as well as managing a healthy diet is key, as the combination of these can help maintain optimal cognitive health. Personalized nutritional data allows you to tell which key vitamins are necessary to balance your current lifestyle.
Our recommendations are personalized, clinically researched, and straightforward. We use the process of nutrigenomics to tell which key vitamins and supplements you’re missing and recommend a specific regimen that will complement your diet and lifestyle. Our testing is focused on your nutritional needs with results that have been scientifically proven for their long-term benefits, formulated with high-quality ingredients. In a nutshell, our data is specifically designed to help you reach your optimal health, both physically and mentally, and potentially slow down the process of cognitive decline.