Photo: ThinkstockBy Emma Haak
First, the not-so-good news in neuroscience: According to a recent study, cognitive decline may set in as early as age 45, much sooner than previously thought. But before you start to panic, there's also reason for hope: Researchers around the globe are learning that we can build up our brains--making them bigger and sharper--simply by feeding them the right nutrients. Here, six smart foods to add to your shopping cart.
RELATED: The Brain Diet
A handful provides a good dose of vitamin E, a nutrient that appears to shield neurons from cell-damaging free radicals. After analyzing data from subjects ages 55 and older, Harvard researchers discovered that people who consumed the most vitamin E were 25 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who consumed the least.
An alternative: almond butter.
Head to the dairy aisle for this plentiful source of vitamin B12. In 2011 scientists found that people with indications of a B12 deficit performed worse on tests of long-term memory. Study author Christy Tangney, PhD, says too little B12 can lead to the degeneration of myelin sheaths--the protective layer around our nerves that allow impulses to travel quickly through the brain.
An alternative: Swiss cheese.
Total Whole Grain
It's high in B, C, D, and E--a medley that may prevent brain shrinkage linked to Alzheimer's. In a 2012 study, subjects with high levels of those vitamins had significantly larger brains and scored better on visual-spatial tests. "The right nutrient combination may be a recipe for Alzheimer's prevention," says lead author Gene Bowman.
An alternative: Kellogg's Smart Start Antioxidants cereal.
Fatty fish are full of omega-3s, and new research suggests these nutrients may be essential to maintaining a youthful mind. The study, which involved MRI scans of subjects with an average age of 65, noted that the brains of those with the lowest omega-3 levels in their red blood cells appeared two years older than the brains of those with higher levels.
An alternative: walnuts.
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KEEP READING: 2 More Things to Eat Today for a Smarter Brain Tomorrow
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