Last year an accident left me with a lingering concussion. It wouldn’t have been as bad if it wasn’t for the other four concussions I suffered when I was younger. For weeks I suffered brain fog and mental exhaustion that just didn’t want to go away. I ended up having to take a prolonged leave of absence from work when my doctor said my head hadn’t gotten any better. Months later, I still found myself fumbling for words that typically came so quickly to me. I became increasingly more frustrated after being told over and over to just “wait it out.”
I genuinely believe that the food we put in our bodies is the first step to healing. We have to provide nutrients to our body, which our cells can break down and use to strengthen our body or even make it more receptive to recommended medicines. So, when doctors repeatedly told me to just stay off screens as much as possible (I work and go to school online, how do we even do this during this day and age?!), I turned to food. You can imagine my excitement when the scientific journal, Neurology.org published a new study focusing on the effects of flavonoid-rich foods and cognitive decline.
Researchers looked at over 70,000 people over 20 years to study their cognitive decline in relation to their diet. The participants were all around 50 years old at the start of the study. Data was collected on the dietary habits of each of the participants. They were also surveyed twice throughout the study to evaluate their memory and brain function. The research team found that the individuals who ate diets full of flavonoids—an antioxidant common in colorful fruits and vegetables like berries, peppers, citrus fruits, apples, and more, had the least cognitive decline over the 20 years. More specifically, flavones—which are found in yellow and orange plant foods, were found to lower cognitive decline by 38%, and anthocyanin—which is common in berries, reduced cognitive decline by 24%.
With summer in full bloom in the Northern Hemisphere, a flavonoid-rich diet is easy to incorporate. However, flavonoids are not the only nutrients that support a healthy brain. Research also supports that green, leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli (which are in season in the fall) are full of good nutrients like vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene that will keep our minds sharp. Nuts such as walnuts are high in Omega-3s, which have been linked to promoting healthy memory recall. According to a study published by The Journal of Nutrition, our favorite morning beverages, tea and coffee, have also been linked with helping boost mental function.
Since learning of these delicious (and in season!) foods I can add to my diet to improve my cognitive function, I started making sure to eat one of the foods a day at least. It can be as simple as adding a handful of berries to your morning yogurt or oatmeal or just having a side of leafy greens with your dinner. The brain fog that I’ve constantly been experiencing has started to get better. I feel myself getting back to my usual self when talking or working on school or work assignments! I’m so excited to see how my brain health will continue to improve. Sometimes nature is truly our best medicine.
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Photo: Alex Block on Unsplash