For better brain function, have a healthy diet starting young. But don't worry, it's never too late to start.

Consuming a healthy diet rich in foods like blueberries, avocado, and nuts is associated with improved brain function, according to recent research. A study following 3,000 participants in the United Kingdom over 70 years found that individuals with the highest-quality diets, characterized by an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, had better cognitive function than those with poorer diets. The connection between diet and brain function was consistent throughout the participants’ lives, from age 4 through their 60s.

Researchers evaluated the participants’ food diaries and cognitive test results, comparing them to the United States Department of Agriculture Healthy Eating Index. The study didn’t aim to prove that eating well directly causes better cognitive function, but the link was evident. About half of those with high-quality diets were on the “highest cognitive trajectory,” meaning their mental acuity was better than most of their peers and either stayed consistent or improved over time. Conversely, around 47% of those with the lowest-quality diets were on the “lowest cognitive trajectory,” exhibiting a decline in mental sharpness compared to their peers.

The study highlighted that eating healthily during adolescence seemed to establish a pattern for high cognitive function throughout life. However, it’s never too late to adopt a healthier diet. Middle age was identified as a “good window of opportunity” to make dietary changes that could positively impact cognitive function, thanks to neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to change and adapt in response to new experiences.

To maintain brain health, it’s recommended to follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the advice provided by MyPlate.gov, a resource for learning about a well-balanced diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean or plant-based proteins. When making changes, it’s advisable to add healthy foods rather than eliminate unhealthy ones. For example, adding a serving of blueberries to your breakfast can boost its nutritional value without removing favorite foods.

To further support brain health, experts suggest increasing consumption of antioxidant-rich snacks, such as green tea, leafy greens, and berries, and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like wild-caught fatty fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Dark chocolate and spices like turmeric that contain curcumin are also beneficial for brain health due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

To protect brain health, it’s crucial to limit the consumption of inflammation-inducing foods like refined carbohydrates, trans fats, ultra-processed foods, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, fried foods, high sodium foods, and excessive amounts of processed meats and sweets. By making conscious dietary choices, individuals can help safeguard their cognitive function and overall brain health.

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