Serve Up a Healthy Helping of Brain Foods This Summer

Fresh asparagus, in some areas, is starting to hit the local farm stands and farmer’s markets, a sure sign that spring has arrived and summer is right around the corner. It’s also a reminder that opportunities to improve brain health and support cognitive function through the simple act of enjoying a good meal are right at our fingertips all year long.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that diet can have a positive or negative effect on brain function. Foods that contain certain vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants (which protect against cell damage) promote brain health, while those high in unsaturated fats and refined sugars can contribute to mental decline.

The science is complicated; the list of brain-boosting and brain-busting foods is lengthy; and ongoing research is leading to new discoveries all the time. Suffice to say, brain-boosting foods help protect against damage to neurons in the brain, improve blood flow to the area, and support the complex physiological goings-on that are vital to memory and learning. In this forum, we’ll touch upon some seasonal fare that’s not only delicious to eat but is also good for your brain.

In addition to that local asparagus now is also the time for fresh rhubarb and avocados. Late June and early July bring an abundance of delectable selections, including greenhouse tomatoes and local snap and shell peas. A traditional Fourth of July menu of salmon and peas is certainly brain healthy, especially when you add seasonal fresh strawberries for dessert. July and August is harvest time for raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, as well. And as the summer goes on, be sure to include some broccoli and nutritious leafy greens to the mix, such as spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard and kale. When fall is in the air, take advantage of the wide variety of apples and other fall fruits and vegetables.

Of course the foods listed above are available all year long, too. Additional brain healthy foods include whole grains, nuts and seeds, lentils, fatty fish, olive oil, Concord grape juice, dark chocolate, and even caffeine. Whatever your tastes, it’s easy to choose foods that satisfy your palate and protect, improve, and fuel your brain.