brain snacks

You may already know that your eating habits can help or hinder your risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes, but you may not know the ways nutrition can affect you. Brain health. In fact, many studies point to the fact of this Rich in antioxidants and nutrients Whole foods play important roles in protecting your cognitive function – your abilities to think, learn, and to remember.

Meanwhile, an unhealthy diet is full Heavily processed foods – Foods containing refined grains and excess added sugar or sodium – may accelerate brain aging. Unfortunately, many common snacks—from pretzels to chips to bars—fall into this camp, so swapping out your snack for healthy fare is one way to stay sharp as you age. Here are some of the best science-backed snack foods to add to your list.

Whole grain crackers

Assorted Crackers and Triscuits.
Assorted Crackers and Triscuits.Getty Images

Scientists are studying how diet and nutrition can improve brain health, and The mind diesR achieved impressive results. The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet Evidence It may reduce the risk of dementia and preserve cognitive function as you age. The MIND diet includes three or more servings of whole grains per day because they play a role in protecting your brain. This is what makes whole grain crackers such a great snack option.

When choosing whole grain crackers, look at the ingredients list to make sure a whole grain (such as whole wheat or brown rice) is the first ingredient. You can tell that packaged foods — like cookies — are less processed if the other ingredients are foods you can shop for. for example, trisquit It contains only three ingredients: whole wheat, canola oil, and salt. Mary’s Gun Crackers is another solid option; The first two ingredients are brown rice and quinoa.

On the MIND diet, cheese is limited to one serving per week, so pair crackers with brain-healthy alternatives, like hummus or guac.

popcorn

Young woman using computer and snacking on popcorn.
A movie at home is great with a bowl of popcorn.Vesna Andijk / Getty Images

Yes, popcorn is a whole grain, and thus it is the best snack for keeping your brain sharp. in one study which tracked nearly 140,000 adults for six years, those over 80 who ate the lowest amount of whole grains had the highest risk of memory loss.

In addition, another study Including adults 50 and older, they found that those who ate the most whole grains (about seven servings per day) were more likely to achieve higher scores on a measure of successful aging — including preserving cognitive function — when compared to those who They eat less whole grains. Whole grains have also been associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. This reduction in disease risk is also likely to be a boon for brain health.

While popcorn by itself is a nutritious snack, what you add to it can keep you from making it healthy, so put less butter and sweetener on. I love this mild sweetener Maple corn From Quinn, which satisfies salty food cravings with only 2g of added sugar per serving. Another favorite is Skinny Pop, which comes in both microwaveable and ready-to-gnaw options. If you prefer to make your own popcorn in the microwave, try a silicone popper.

pomegranate juice

pomegranate juice.
Pure pomegranate juice.Lyudmila Yaremenko / Getty Images

Most people need 1 to 2 cups of fruit per day, but few people meet these recommendations. To help in this regard, consider including pomegranate juice in your snack pack. Pomegranate juice can count towards one serving of fruit—the others must come from another form of fruit, such as fresh fruit—and it can have a strong payoff.

This ruby ​​red drink contains phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and protect your cells from damage that can promote brain aging. small one study Among people with mild memory complaints, it was found that drinking 8 ounces of pomegranate juice daily for a month was associated with improved memory and increased activity of neurons in the brain. One-year follow-up study showed that pomegranate juice drinkers retained the ability to learn visual information. In contrast, those who drank a pomegranate juice mixture stripped of the polyphenol nutrient experienced a significant decrease in this aspect of learning.

To make pomegranate juice a balanced snack, drink it with some nuts or use it as a liquid base in a fruit and vegetable protein smoothie made with Greek yogurt, silken tofu, or another protein you like. When shopping, choose pomegranate juice without added sugar, like this one Wonderful owl.

Walnuts

Walnuts in a brown bowl.
Walnuts are good for brain health and they seem to be.Getty Images

Among nuts, walnuts may be the best for brain functioning. in reconsidering Including 22 studies and more than 47,000 people, researchers noted that nuts were beneficial among people most likely to experience cognitive decline. However, among all the nuts studied, walnuts were most consistently associated with better cognitive health. else study It found that women who ate at least two servings of walnuts a week during their late 50s and early 60s were more likely to age healthfully—defined as not having memory impairments, among other things—than those who skipped the practice.

Some of the ways that diet can improve brain performance include improving blood flow, reducing inflammation, and protecting against oxidative stress — the phenomenon that occurs when you have more free radicals than antioxidants. This imbalance can lead to cell damage that increases your risk of cognitive impairment and other chronic health problems. This is why walnuts can be so beneficial. Walnuts are the nut that has the highest amount of omega-3 ALA, which protects against inflammation, and is also rich in antioxidants that protect against oxidative stress.

Regular walnuts make a tasty snack, but you can also season Have them at home or buy them in fun flavors like these Crazy Joe nuts with maple flavor, which contains 5 grams of added sugar. If you like a little heat in your snack, go for it Crazy Joe nuts with buffalo flavor While that.

blueberry

A bowl of fresh blueberries.
A bowl of fresh blueberries.Getty Images

Blueberries are on the shortlist of must-eat foods when it comes to keeping your memory and thinking skills sharp. in studiesThey have been associated with slower rates of cognitive decline and improved memory and executive functioning. Research has also revealed increased blood flow to certain areas of the brains of blueberry eaters. The benefits of blueberries start early in life. there Evidence Children whose diet is supplemented with blueberries experience improvements in memory, attention and reading.

You can snack on blueberries in any form, such as fresh, frozen in a smoothie, dried, or freeze-dried, like these Good and gathered them from the target. For a snack that does triple brain-boosting duty, add dried or freeze-dried blueberries to a mixture of walnuts and popcorn. As always, when buying shapes other than fresh blueberries, look for versions without added sugars.

kale chips

Kale chips with parmesan cheese.
Kale chips with parmesan cheese.Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

Just one serving of leafy greens a day — a little more than a cup of raw greens or 1/2 cup cooked — may help stave off memory decline as you age, according to study. Compared to adults who rarely or never ate leafy greens, those who met this sign had the brain power of people under the age of 11. Scientists believe that phylloquinone, lutein, and folic acid—nutrients abundant in leafy greens—are key to this protective effect.

You can make it yourself kale chips Or buy them ready to eat. Rhythm Superfoods Kale Chips Provide the crunch you want in a snack. Kale chips are too delicate to dip into a dip, so pair them with some cottage cheese on the side to round out your snack and make it even more satisfying.

Editor’s note: The author revealed that she is a spokeswoman for California Walnuts.

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