There are countless apps available today that promise to keep your mind razor-sharp. Though I've yet to download these games, I have many friends who've tried them out in the spirit of keeping an agile mind. That's because I also see how many times people choose these quick fixes, "mindfully" playing them while "mindlessly" munching on a bag of chips.
But what if I told you there were two things that could boost your brain that didn't involve any fees or long-term memberships? Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., author of the upcoming book, The MIND Diet, says there are foods you should focus on eating that not only help promote a healthy body, but also help improve the health of the mind.
"The MIND diet covers 15 food groups, including five types of food to avoid, but twice as many to enjoy," says Moon. "The best foods for your brain include vegetables—leafy greens in particular—nuts, beans, berries, poultry, fish, whole grains, olive oil, and wine. Each of these have research-backed benefits for keeping the brain cognitively younger. My top picks in each category are broccoflower, baby kale, tree nuts, blueberries, and sardines."
If you're looking for creative menu ideas to incorporate more of these foods in your daily diet, here are a few suggestions:
Broccoflower: Just wash, chop, and throw these in a bag. Serve 'em up as a nice veggie crudité with a homemade ranch dip.
Baby Kale: Try a kale and quinoa bowl for a nutrient-packed meal filled with protein, vitamin A, and fiber.
Blueberries: Blueberry almond cookies are the perfect antioxidant-packed treat healthy enough to snack on morning, noon, and night.
As a side bonus, scientists are also exploring the potential impact of pomegranate polyphenols on memory and cognition in older adults. In fact, a preliminary 2013 UCLA study indicated that a small group of older adults with age-related memory complaints showed increased verbal memory performance and functional brain activity in MRI testing after just four weeks of drinking eight ounces of pomegranate juice daily. More research is needed, of course, but hey—the early findings are promising. And it may just be reason enough to trade in that morning glass of OJ for 100 percent POM juice.
Want more ways to improve your mind health? Moon suggests the seven principles that were developed by an expert panel at the 2013 International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain. In addition to general healthy eating recommendations, such as eating whole foods and limiting saturated and trans fats, the guidelines emphasize physical fitness, like walking briskly for at least 40 minutes every other day.
In a nutshell, this further emphasizes what we kind of already knew: Diet and exercise are the dream duo for boosting your brain. Plus, eating more fresh foods and taking a walk with your bestie doesn't sound so hard, right?