Best Spices to Boost your Brain Health
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No matter how old we are, we’re always looking for ways to boost our brain health. One of the best ways is from the food we consume, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, protein-rich foods and healthy fats. But just as food affects our bodies physically, what we eat has an effect on our memory, cognition, mood and focus. As well as adding flavour to our foods, spices boast a whole array of health benefits, including improving our brain health. Here are some of the best spices to add to your cooking.
Not only does it help improve your digestive health, ginger is a powerful spice when it comes to brain health. Ginger contains hundreds of phytochemicals, including gingerols, beta-carotene, capsaicin, curcumin and salicylates, which all protect against oxidative stress and decline in brain function. Oxidative stress can accelerate the ageing process and is thought to be one of the key drivers of Alzheimer’s disease.
Add ginger to savoury dishes like curries, stews and stir fries; sweet dishes like puddings, cakes and biscuits; drinks like teas, smoothies and coffee.
Turmeric is another powerful spice loaded with nutrients. Its main compound, curcumin, is the antioxidant responsible for its bright yellow colour and health benefits. Curcumin contains neuroprotective properties which help protect the brain’s sharpness. It helps to boost memory function, reduce brain fog and improve cognition. People with Alzheimer’s have decreased levels of the growth hormone BDNF, which functions in the brain. Curcumin has been found to increase levels of this hormone.
A relative of ginger and turmeric, cardamom is frequently used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines. This aromatic seed pod is rich in health benefits, from preventing diabetes to improving heart health. Cardamom also contains high levels of thiamin and vitamin C which enhance neurodevelopment and brain function. Thiamin helps to reduce oxidative stress, which when in the brain, can suppress learning abilities, memory and communication skills.
Cardamom can be used both in sweet and savoury dishes. Add them to curries, spice mixes, sweet breads and hot beverages like masala chai and Turkish coffee.
This classic spice is loaded with antioxidants, beta-carotene and B vitamins which are linked to brain health. Cinnamon prevents the build up of protein in the brain which is linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It also encourages the process of learning and forming new memories, helping neurons to form and make new connections. The spice is also high in antioxidants which protect the brain from negative effects of stress.
Sprinkle cinnamon into coffee, mix into morning oats, add to rubs, marinades and sauces, or enjoy a sweet cinnamon bun.
One of the most commonly traded spices in the world, black pepper is an excellent spice for brain health. Piperine is the main medicinal compound in black pepper and contains high amounts of antioxidants. These antioxidants prevent damage of healthy brain cells caused by free radicals. Black pepper also improves cognitive function and memory by stimulating chemical pathways to the brain.