March is National Nutrition Month and for adults age 40 and older staying sharp is food for thought.
Rob Naylor, communications director for AARP Tennessee, points to a 2017 survey in which nearly nine in 10 adults said they would eat a healthy diet if they knew it could reduce their risk of cognitive decline, heart disease or diabetes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends certain amounts of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grain foods and protein. Naylor says a large majority of adults consumed too few servings of fish, oils and green leafy vegetables.
He says good brain health can start with a common sense approach.
"Portion sizes, the idea that cooking at home generally results in better diet quality, using things like olive oil instead of butter, increasing the amount of fish as a substitute for red meat, I think are all things that folks hear, but there really is a connection between long-term brain health and a healthy diet," he states.
Naylor says research shows that, like an expensive car, your brain functions best when it gets only premium fuel. Eating high quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants nourish the brain and protect it from stress.
Naylor says while there is no one magic brain food, there are foods that can help decrease memory loss. These include foods containing fish oil or Omega-3, which consistently have shown possible brain benefits.
Naylor says this is important for seniors to consider.
"You know, it's never too late to make changes to your lifestyle to be more healthy," he stresses. "I know a lot of folks may be thinking, 'Well, I've been going for the burger-and-fries option for most of my life.' Well, it does have an impact over time, but it's never too late."
Naylor points to studies that show that food is the best fuel for the brain while supplements and brain health vitamins have mixed evidence.
AARP offers the latest information on how foods affect your brain health at AARP.org.