To help you sip your way to improvements in memory and alertness, as well as lower your risk of cognitive decline over the years, we asked a New York-based dietitian Bianca Tamburello, RDNto share their own brain-boosting drinks.
5 brain-boosting drinks approved by the RD
1. Turmeric Latte
Instantly recognizable by its deeply pigmented golden hue, turmeric is a revered spice in Indian cuisine that is also delicious when served as turmeric lattes. The spice is famous in the nutrition community for its far-reaching health benefits– with brain-boosting potential among them – thanks in large part to curcumin, its active ingredient. “In an 18-month study, participants who received Theracurmin, a form of curcumin, twice daily experienced improved memory and increased attentionsays Tamburello. She notes that two of curcumin’s properties may facilitate these benefits: “Its anti-inflammatory effects, which reduce harmful chronic inflammation; and its antioxidant effects, which fight free radicals that can damage cells in the body.
As a bonus, Tamburello says that curcumin can increase dopamine and serotonin levels for natural mood enhancement – so it’s worth ordering or make your own turmeric latte. A word to the wise: Be sure to add a pinch of black pepper to the mix to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000% (!).
2. Red wine
Who’s ready to kick off the wine hour to improve brain function? “Studies show that responsible consumption of red wine can have a positive impact on brain health, thanks in large part to resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant abundant in red wine,” says Tamburello (to our delight). “Resveratrol offers protective effects to help shield brain cells from harmful substances. It also has anti-inflammatory properties to help fight chronic inflammation linked to certain diseases, and may help improved memory and mood.” In addition, research shows that red wine consumption “is correlated with a reduction in the incidence of neurodegenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
But before you get too excited about the protective powers of wine, Tamburello reminds us that drinking to excess is never the way to go and will instead work against your health, cognitive and other goals. Of course, moderation is key, so it may be worth shopping around for options that promote healthier eating. “As a dietitian, I recommend looking for a low-sugar red wine that comes in mini bottles for easy portion control,” she shares. And of course, Tamburello discourages anyone beginning drink for health.
3. Mixed Berry Smoothies
Berries are proven antioxidant powerhouses, and blend them into a smoothie is a surefire way to enjoy their flavors, support your daily fruit intake, and reap their multitude of benefits for your brain and greater well-being. “Blueberries are especially beneficial because they’re particularly high in anthocyanins, an antioxidant that gives berries their blue, purple, and red colors,” says Tamburello. In an observational study assessing berry consumption in older adults over a 20-year period, researchers found that those who reported higher consumption of blueberries and strawberries demonstrated slower rates of cognitive decline. These findings have been widely attributed to the high content of flavonoids in the berries, including anthocyanins and anthocyanidins.
The berries also work their magic to increase brain activity. “In a 2014 study, older adults who ate more blueberries and strawberries showed greater blood flow to the brain and experienced improved memorysays Tamburello. Put simply, filling up on berries is one of the best things you can do to support long-term brain health – so stock up on a mix of these fruits, whether fresh or frozen, and mix them into one of the strongest brain-boosting drinks available.
If the mere thought of a freshly roasted coffee puts you in a good mood, you’ll be even happier knowing that your morning cup not only helps you wake up, but may also provide protection against cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s. age. “Caffeine is the component of coffee that can claim many of the brain benefits of coffee,” says Tamburello. “It stimulates brain and spinal cord activity and makes us more alert by actively blocking adenosine, a natural chemical that causes that sleepy feeling.”
Even better, Tamburello shares that caffeine consumption can improve cognitive function and mood – which I can personally vouch for as “no talk before coffee” – as well as protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “A study shows that 38 to 400 mg of caffeine is the sweet spot to maximize benefits and minimize risks such as dehydration, headaches and anxiety,” adds Tamburello, noting that a cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine.
Tip: If you like tea instead of coffee, rest assured that a a variety of teas (including, but not limited to, green tea) also provide brain-boosting benefits.
Last but not least, H2O deserves a rightful place on this list of dietitian-approved drinks for brain health. “We can’t talk about brain-boosting drinks without mentioning water and the importance of hydration, because the body can’t function properly without the right amount of water,” says Tamburello. “Even mild dehydration can cause energy levels to plummet, negative impact on cognitive performance and memoryand increase anxiety.
Additionally, a small study of healthy female participants found that inadequate hydration was linked to increased perception of task difficulty and a reduced ability to concentrate, as well as mood swings. In other words, if you want to keep your brain sharp and manage your moodrefill (and refill) your water bottle regularly throughout the day.