Membership Expires: Renew

8 Brain-Healthy Staples to Keep on Hand

These common pantry foods can help protect memory, boost energy, reduce anxiety, research suggests

   

5. Oats and Other Grains

Oats and their cousins rice, cornmeal, barley and wheat are all members of the grain family. Quinoa, although not a full-fledged relative, is prepared like a grain. It’s gluten-free, high in protein and higher than most other grains in fiber. It’s also one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own. Your body breaks down the complex carbs in these whole grains into glucose for energy. Whole grains are also rich in B vitamins that work to reduce inflammation in the brain, potentially helping to preserve memory. This group of eight vitamins may also reduce anxiety and improve mood, according to some research.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: Containers of 1-minute and 5-minute oatmeal will last for 2 to 3 years beyond its “best by” date.

Store whole grains that you use at least once a month at room temperature. If you use them less frequently, pop them in the freezer. Store dried beans at room temperature.

Recipes

6. Seeds

Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are among the most popular seeds in the United States, and both of them add pizzazz to even the simplest food. Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, a compound the body converts to serotonin, a substance that has been found to calm the mind and lower anxiety, according to some research. Sunflower seeds provide magnesium, a mineral that seems to lift the fog of depression in some people and may help relieve anxiety. Keep a dish of either (or both) of these brain-boosting seeds ready for those times your thoughts turn to a candy bar.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: In an airtight container or bag, pumpkin seeds last 1 to 2 months and sunflower seeds last 2 to 5 months past their “best by” date.

In your fridge: Both last a year past their “best by” date in an airtight container or bag.

In your freezer: Both last a year past their “best by” date in an airtight container or bag.

Recipes

7. Dark Chocolate

Whoever thought that an after-dinner nibble of dark chocolate would ever be considered a brain food? Until fairly recently, touted benefits of dark chocolate focused on the heart, but it turns out that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. Compounds in dark chocolate called flavanols — which cut the risk of heart disease — have also been linked to improved memory and attention. Don’t get carried away, though, because too much chocolate can pack on the pounds, warns AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health. They also caution that, sadly, there is not enough evidence to say that dark chocolate decreases the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Note that plenty of research has found that exercise also improves memory and has no calories.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: Chocolate bars last for 2 to 4 months past their “best by” date.

In your fridge: 4 to 6 months past their “best by” date.

In your freezer: 6 to 8 months past their “best by” date.

Recipe

8. Coffee and Tea

What better way to start the day than with a mug of coffee or a good, strong cuppa? The aroma is delicious, the warmth is comforting — and your energy level perks right up. Plus, there’s a big bonus: Some research suggests that drinking a moderate amount of coffee or tea each day may help protect against memory disorders and impaired reasoning. Some studies have found this is the case with coffee and with black, oolong and green tea brewed from tea leaves. What about decaf? The answer’s not in yet, but researchers are working on it. So stay tuned.

How long does it last?

In your pantry: Unopened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its “best by” date.

  • Opened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its  “best by” date.
  • Packaged tea lasts for 6 to 12 months past its “best by” date.

In your freezer: Unopened ground coffee lasts 1 to 2 years past its “best by” date.

  • Opened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its “best by” date.
  • Packaged tea lasts for 1 to 2 years past its  “best by” date.

Recipes

—Nissa Simon

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Membership Expires: Renew

8 Brain-Healthy Staples to Keep on Hand

These common pantry foods can help protect memory, boost energy, reduce anxiety, research suggests

   

5. Oats and Other Grains

Oats and their cousins rice, cornmeal, barley and wheat are all members of the grain family. Quinoa, although not a full-fledged relative, is prepared like a grain. It’s gluten-free, high in protein and higher than most other grains in fiber. It’s also one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own. Your body breaks down the complex carbs in these whole grains into glucose for energy. Whole grains are also rich in B vitamins that work to reduce inflammation in the brain, potentially helping to preserve memory. This group of eight vitamins may also reduce anxiety and improve mood, according to some research.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: Containers of 1-minute and 5-minute oatmeal will last for 2 to 3 years beyond its “best by” date.

Store whole grains that you use at least once a month at room temperature. If you use them less frequently, pop them in the freezer. Store dried beans at room temperature.

Recipes

6. Seeds

Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are among the most popular seeds in the United States, and both of them add pizzazz to even the simplest food. Lightly toasted pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, a compound the body converts to serotonin, a substance that has been found to calm the mind and lower anxiety, according to some research. Sunflower seeds provide magnesium, a mineral that seems to lift the fog of depression in some people and may help relieve anxiety. Keep a dish of either (or both) of these brain-boosting seeds ready for those times your thoughts turn to a candy bar.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: In an airtight container or bag, pumpkin seeds last 1 to 2 months and sunflower seeds last 2 to 5 months past their “best by” date.

In your fridge: Both last a year past their “best by” date in an airtight container or bag.

In your freezer: Both last a year past their “best by” date in an airtight container or bag.

Recipes

7. Dark Chocolate

Whoever thought that an after-dinner nibble of dark chocolate would ever be considered a brain food? Until fairly recently, touted benefits of dark chocolate focused on the heart, but it turns out that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. Compounds in dark chocolate called flavanols — which cut the risk of heart disease — have also been linked to improved memory and attention. Don’t get carried away, though, because too much chocolate can pack on the pounds, warns AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health. They also caution that, sadly, there is not enough evidence to say that dark chocolate decreases the risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Note that plenty of research has found that exercise also improves memory and has no calories.

How long do they last?

In your pantry: Chocolate bars last for 2 to 4 months past their “best by” date.

In your fridge: 4 to 6 months past their “best by” date.

In your freezer: 6 to 8 months past their “best by” date.

Recipe

8. Coffee and Tea

What better way to start the day than with a mug of coffee or a good, strong cuppa? The aroma is delicious, the warmth is comforting — and your energy level perks right up. Plus, there’s a big bonus: Some research suggests that drinking a moderate amount of coffee or tea each day may help protect against memory disorders and impaired reasoning. Some studies have found this is the case with coffee and with black, oolong and green tea brewed from tea leaves. What about decaf? The answer’s not in yet, but researchers are working on it. So stay tuned.

How long does it last?

In your pantry: Unopened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its “best by” date.

  • Opened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its  “best by” date.
  • Packaged tea lasts for 6 to 12 months past its “best by” date.

In your freezer: Unopened ground coffee lasts 1 to 2 years past its “best by” date.

  • Opened ground coffee lasts 3 to 5 months past its “best by” date.
  • Packaged tea lasts for 1 to 2 years past its  “best by” date.

Recipes

—Nissa Simon