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We learned from Blue Zone residents that a holistic approach to wellness leads to longevity. The world’s longest living, healthiest – and some would say happiest – humans keep their bodies in shape with regular movement. Their souls at peace with strong community and faith. Their minds sharp with balanced, plant-forward diets. The mental sharpness of Blue Zone residents stood out most in the study because when compared to American elders, the rate of developing Alzheimer’s, dementia, and overall cognitive decline is significantly lower.

Scientists account for this difference because traditional diets, like the Mediterranean and Japanese diets, tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood. They also contain only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy. Many of these unprocessed foods are fermented, and therefore act as natural probiotics. Additionally, they are void of processed and refined foods and sugars, which are staples of the “Western” dietary pattern.

Not only do traditional diets promote brain health and activity, they lessen the risk of depression. Ninety-five percent of serotonin, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and appetite, mediate moods, and inhibit pain is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. A hundred million nerve cells, aka neurons, line your gastrointestinal tract. This proves that the inner workings of your digestive system don’t just help you digest food, but also guide your mind.

The direct correlation between brain health and food becomes clearer when you learn that the brain uses 20 percent of calories consumed. No wonder it is hard to concentrate on an empty stomach! But, you don’t have to live in a Blue Zone or completely adopt their traditional diets to have a healthier brain.

Frances Largeman-Roth, Registered, Dietitian Nutritionist, shared with these eight “brain foods” to keep your brain functioning at optimal capacity:

1. Fatty Fish: Since the brain is mostly made up of omega-3 fatty acids, it makes sense that foods that contain this support brain health. Omega-3 protects the brain with its anti-inflammatory effects, ability to help create new neurons, and power to help clear the brain of plaques, one of the signs of Alzheimer’s. Wild-caught seafood is the best source of omega-3.

SEE ALSO: Let the Sunshine In: Surprising Health Benefits of Sunlight

2. Eggs: Eggs contain the micronutrient, choline, which aids in brain function, memory, thinking, mood, and more. One large egg provides 150 milligrams, about 25% of the daily requirement for men and 35% for women.

3. Walnuts: Resembling mini brains themselves, walnuts are linked to improved cognitive function, memory, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Not to mention, their positive effects on the cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, which are both risk factors for dementia.

4. Berries: Inflammation is a major contributor to cancers and diseases. Antioxidant and polyphenol-rich berries contain several anti-inflammatory compounds that fight diseases. Research has found eating berries protects against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s for example.

5. Prunes: Prunes are not just for improved gut health. The dried plums are high in potassium, vitamin B6, copper, and anthocyanin, all micronutrients that contribute to normal functioning of the nervous system.

SEE ALSO: 5 Vitamins You Should Consider Taking Daily

6. Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits like mandarins, oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits contain nobiletin. The compound nobiletin protects nerve cells, provides anti-inflammatory benefits, and is a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s as it slows neurodegeneration.

7. Cocoa Powder and Dark Chocolate: Here’s your sign to eat more chocolate! Cocoa beans are flavanol-rich, helping to fight inflammation and increase blood flow to the brain, while dark chocolate gives you protective polyphenols.

8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A 2023 study done at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that daily consumption of more than half a tablespoon of EVOO had a 28% lower risk of dying from dementia compared to never or rarely consuming olive oil. EVOO has no shortage of polyphenols and vitamin E, and is a healthier alternative to margarine and mayo.

Start incorporating these foods today to boost brain health and prevent cognitive decline.

8 Foods To Boost Brain Health According To A Dietitian  was originally published on