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Brain Power for Your Grocery List

Brain Power for Your Grocery List

By Chris Strub

What's for dinner? That old saying that "you are what you eat" holds deeper implications than your waistline and six-pack (or lack thereof) - your diet affects your brain's ability to function.

Adding certain foods into your daily routine can help you improve blood flow to the brain, and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Related: Recipes from previous issues of Healthy Life Magazine

Spinach is filled with nutrients that prevent dementia, like folate, Vitamin K and Vitamin E. A study conducted in 2006 found that three servings a day of leafy green, yellow and cruciferous vegetables can stop cognitive decline by 40 percent.

Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for maintaining a healthy mind. Experts believe DHA, one of the main omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, are probably necessary for transmitting signals between brain cells. Incorporating fish into your diet at least three times per week has been shown to reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease by 39%.

Healthy carbohydrates are particularly crucial for children to successfully perform cognitive tasks. Slower-burning carbs, such as oatmeal, are better than faster-burning carbs, like sugary breakfast cereals. Adding oats, bran cereals and whole wheat bagels, is a beneficial step for you and your children.

Beans are a simple way to add iron to your diet. Studies have shown that being even mildly deficient in iron can affect learning, memory and attention. Beef, chicken or turkey and soy are also good sources of iron.

Extra virgin olive oil is another great ingredient to help fight Alzheimer's. Research showed that extra virgin olive oil, which is rich in oleocanthal, is an effective means of battling toxic Alzheimer's-inducing proteins.

Cinnamon is a spice that researchers recently identified as another Alzheimer's foe. Although there is no long-term proof yet, scientists recently revealed that two compounds in cinnamon - proanthocyanidins and cimmaldehyde - may inactivate tau proteins that tangle in the brain - one of the well-known trademarks of Alzheimer's disease.

Curry features an active ingredient called curcumin that, in animal studies, has helped clear away Alzheimer's-causing proteins in the brain. Like cinnamon, scientists are working on more long-term research with curcumin in humans.

Alcohol - in moderation - has been shown to protect the brain and the heart by preventing blockages in blood vessels. One recent study found that people who had one to six drinks a week - across the week, not all in the same night - were 54% less likely to develop dementia than teetotalers.

And finally, chocolate - we figured you'd like that one! - continues to receive positive press from researchers. A 2009 study performed by the Journal of Nutrition determined that eating as little as one-third of an ounce of chocolate a day - the size of about two Hershey's kisses) - can help defend against age-related memory loss. The polyphenols in cocoa increase blood flow to the brain.

Sources: CNN.com, eatingwell.com, prevention.com