Brain Food: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Dark chocolate is my favorite treat, so I never get tired of hearing and sharing good news about it. The latest tasty tidbit, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, is that drinking cocoa may improve brain function. So add mental power to your list of reasons to indulge in reasonable amounts of cacao-containing goodies (in case the facts that chocolate is a longevity-boosting superfood that may give you energy, make you more beautiful, improve cholesterol levels, and help your heart aren’t enough reasons to justify your chocolate consumption). In other good-for-your brain news, the August issue of the Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter reports that Smart Fat Choices Protect Your Brain. The article explains that recent studies add to an increasing body of evidence that consuming more omega-3s and unsaturated oils and fewer foods high in saturated fat may reduce risk of cognitive decline, so remember to load up on fatty fish, nuts, and olive oil. On the bad news front, you may have read reports from earlier this year about a study that linked the extract of ginkgo biloba, a purported brain booster, to cancer in lab animals. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is now urging the FDA to prohibit the use of ginkgo in food and dietary supplements, while Dr. Andrew Weil says perhaps we needn’t worry too much. Taking into account the new studies as well as a study from a few years ago that suggested ginkgo doesn’t improve memory, I don’t think I’ll add it to my menu soon (particularly not in highly concentrated extract form), especially not when I could be eating chocolate instead! Epicurious’ article Eating for Alzheimer’s Prevention explains more ways that changing your diet might help improve your brain health (preview: stick with those healthy fats mentioned above and add some kale, berries, and turmeric). Here are the brain-boosting recipes I’ve recently added to my recipe box: Red Lentils and Kale with Miso, Oven-Poached Fish in Olive Oil, Hanoi Turmeric Grilled Fish with Dill and Onion, and Insanely Good Chocolate Brownies. How about you? Photo: Megan O. Steintrager

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