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Eat your way to a younger brain: Harvard expert shares 7 foods to boost brain power

Jun 18, 2024 10:12 AM IST

Dr Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition expert, shares 7 foods to boost brain power.

Dr Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition expert, has spent more than 20 years studying brain food. In a conversation with Business Insider, the Indian-origin nutritionist explained how to eat your way to a healthier brain without breaking the bank.

Dr Uma Naidoo is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition expert.
Dr Uma Naidoo is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist and nutrition expert.

According to Dr Naidoo, you can eat your way to a younger brain and healthier gut through some grocery staples. The brain and gut are closely connected, she explained. What you eat can affect your mood positively or negatively. In fact, the gut is a key producer of neurotransmitters like serotonin that affect mental health.

The best part is that you don’t need fancy or expensive food items to boost your brain power. “All you need to do is add in very simple ingredients, easily accessible ingredients, whether it's leafy greens or herbs and spices,” says Dr Naidoo.

Here are Dr Naidoo’s picks for foods that boost brain power:

Yogurt and cottage cheese

Yogurt and cottage cheese are probiotic foods packed with beneficial bacteria. As probiotics, they contain live bacteria that are beneficial for your digestive system, particularly the gut. They help maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut which may influence other aspects like mental health.

Besides this, both yogurt and cottage cheese are good sources of protein that promote feelings of satiety and fullness.

Nuts and berries

The next two brain-boosting foods on Dr Naidoo’s list are nuts and berries. They provide fiber which keeps the digestive system healthy. Berries are also packed with antioxidants. “We want to eat antioxidants because these fend off oxidative stress in the body and the brain,” Dr Naidoo explains.

She cautions against purchasing pre-made granola as it can be high in sugar, which is linked to a host of health issues like risk of anxiety and depression.

Leafy greens

Spinach and kale, along with other leafy greens, are nutrient powerhouses that offer numerous health benefits, particularly related to healthier aging. They are packed with Vitamin K and folate which is crucial for cell division.

Dr Naidoo also advises including microgreens like cress and arugula in your diet. “If I see microgreens, especially in the summer, I try to get some of those because that added to the top of my salad just is more nutrition for me,” she said.

Dark chocolate

Healthy does not mean no treats. Dark chocolate is packed with flavanols, which are a type of plant-based compound associated with improved heart health and cognitive benefits.

“Not only is it a brain-healthy food, it's low in sugar. So rather than a candy bar, I have my patients get used to eating small chunks of extra dark natural chocolate,” explained Dr Naidoo to Business Insider.

Fresh herbs

Finally, she recommends including fresh herbs like basil and parsley which can boost flavour and provide health benefits at the same time. Many fresh herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil, contain antioxidants that help protect brain cells from oxidative stress.

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