Insight Neurosurgery – Warm weather, long days, bonfires, and the beach are just a few of the many reasons we love summer in the Great Lakes region. But one of the best parts of the season has to be the abundance of fresh, healthy foods that are available this time of year. Whether you have your own garden or visit your community farmers market, there will be no shortage of locally grown, delicious, and affordable fruits and vegetables in the weeks ahead.
You’re probably aware that fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious, better for the environment, and help us save money, but did you know that many of these foods also boost brain health and memory? From antioxidant-rich berries to leafy greens packed with nutrients, keep these fresh foods in mind as you shop for locally produced goods and plan your summer menus.
Although most berries offer brain health benefits, blueberries are considered to be one of the ultimate brain foods. Rich in nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese, research shows how blueberries boost blood flow and oxygen in the brain, which results in better concentration.
When eaten alongside other fresh fruits and vegetables, blueberries are also believed to reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive impairments. There are many ways to enjoy blueberries. Whether you eat them alone as a snack, with yogurt, or as part of your smoothie, you can’t go wrong with this fresh choice.
In August and September, apples are another antioxidant-rich fruit widely available in the area. Containing vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene, apples are believed to support brain and immune health.
In a recent study in the journal Stem Cell Reports, researchers found a number of properties in uncooked apple peel and flesh, including quercetin and dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHBA) that stimulates the production of new neurons in the brain. This research also showed the positive effects DHBA found in apple flesh has on hippocampal brain cells, which are involved in learning and memory.
Broccoli is well known for being a great source of dietary fiber, but it may also play an important role in keeping your brain healthy. This versatile fresh food contains high levels of vitamin C and flavonoids, which are antioxidants that promote brain health.
Researchers have found broccoli is rich in glucosinolates, which the body breaks down into isothiocyanates that are known to reduce stress and neurodegenerative diseases. Broccoli also contains an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which has anti-inflammatory properties linked to brain healing and rebuilding damaged neural cells.
Tomatoes are a beloved summer vegetable for many people. Whether you’re looking for a simple no-cook food on a hot day or a fresh burger or sandwich topping, they are an ultra-fresh and nutritious choice. Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene and beta-carotene, which are robust antioxidants. In addition to reducing inflammation, these properties are known to help regulate cell growth, manage genes associated with brain function, and reduce the development or progression of dementia.
All tomatoes contain antioxidants, but some have higher concentrations than others. Choose smaller, darker varieties that are more likely to be nutrient-rich. While tomatoes are in season and inexpensive, also consider preparing sauces or canning them for the year ahead.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, arugula, romaines, and collards are not only great choices for summer salads, but they may also prevent memory loss and help preserve cognitive abilities. Rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta-carotene, these powerful veggies can make a big difference in your overall health when consumed daily.
A number of recent studies have found dense leafy greens may play an important role in brain health and slowing Alzheimer’s development. If salads aren’t a favorite, dark greens are very versatile. Try adding them to smoothies, sauces, and soups. They are also a great alternative to flatbreads and tortillas when making wraps.
Although they’re not as common as some of the other summer foods on this list, red beets are a vibrant and versatile superfood. Vitamin C, folate (B9), calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, and iron are just a few of the many vitamins and minerals found in beets that can aid in the prevention of diseases.
For brain health, red beets contain high levels of nitrates that widen blood vessels and increase blood flow to the frontal lobe of the brain. This is the area associated with decision-making and memory. These nitrates may also lower blood pressure, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you’re unfamiliar with beets, try steaming or roasting them for a healthy side dish. Thinly sliced raw beets are also an excellent addition to slaws, salads, and relishes.
As the summer season winds down in September, pumpkins will be plentiful. Whether you’re carving jack o’lanterns or making pies, remember to keep the seeds this year. Often overlooked, pumpkin seeds are a superfood packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
From magnesium that supports the nervous system and brain development to zinc that regulates communication between brain cells impacting memory and learning, pumpkin seeds may play an important role in maintaining brain function. They are also high in copper and iron, which are essential for supplying energy to the brain. Simply rinse the seeds and roast them with olive oil and salt for a tasty, healthy snack.
Whether it’s fresh fruits like berries and apples or leafy green vegetables, there are many excellent summer food options that support brain health and well-being. By visiting a local grower or farmers market this season, you’ll get the freshest produce possible while making a positive environmental and economic impact in your community. For more information on brain health or to schedule an appointment at Insight Neurosurgery, contact us online or call (810) 275-9333 today.