It's easy to get caught in the endless loop of wondering whether you are where you should be at your age. At 12 years old, I expected I'd have a house, a career, and a family by the time I was 22. Instead, I'm now a dog mom with a leased apartment, and I often feel like I'm still a kid at heart. But it turns out, that may be a good thing: A new study found that feeling younger than you are may mean you have a healthier brain, and honestly, this is the best news I've heard all day.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, asked a group of adults ages 59 and up to state whether they felt older or younger than they actually were. This self-description, which the researchers called "subjective age," can apparently reflect a person’s physiological health. In other words, if you feel young, your brain may actually show fewer age-related impairments, like early signs of dementia.
"If somebody feels older than their age, it could be sign for them to evaluate their lifestyle, habits and activities that could contribute to brain aging and take measures to better care for their brain health," Dr. Jeanyung Chey, one of the researchers on the study, said in a statement. She noted that how old a person feels could affect how active they are, which in turn could affect their overall health. As someone who frequently feels like I'm actually closer to 80 than 18, this definitely gives me some extra motivation to stay active. If I can stay anywhere as young at heart as fabulous Instagram grandma Baddie Winkle, my brain should remain pretty strong.
While these findings clearly illuminate how much your mindset has to do with your overall health, it's easy to give your noggin an extra boost through nutrition, too.
Nourishing your brain with foods that have been shown to help it stay at its youngest and strongest can come down to simple, delicious choices.
Fresh or frozen berries are so easy to incorporate into your meals, and they taste delicious mixed into oatmeal or sprinkled over sorbet. And yes, your brain loves them just as much as your taste buds: In an interview with Forbes back in March, Dr. Lisa Mosconi, PhD, INHC, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, explained that these delicious summer fruits are a top brain food. “Berries (especially blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries but also dark cherries, goji berries and mulberries) are packed with antioxidants that help keep memory sharp as you age,” she told the news outlet.
And now, I'd like to take a moment to tell moms across the world that you were all right: It turns out that getting your greens in is a great way to take care of your health, and more specifically, your brain function. A study published in the journal Annals of Neurology found that consuming vegetables was linked with slower cognitive decline. But if some veggies — like leafy greens — sometimes mess up your stomach, fight uncomfortable bloating by sautéing them (coconut oil and garlic is a delicious, classic combo) instead of eating them raw.
Also, in case you were wondering, there’s nothing fishy about the scientific evidence that fish can help your brain (I’m sorry): “In the brain, DHA seems to be very important for the normal functioning of neurons,” Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush University, told Health. Many kinds of fish contain DHA, which suggests that your sushi habit is actually fantastic for keeping your brain working properly.
And who better to ask about brain health than healthy older people, right? Back in 2016, BBC interviewed 104-year-old Eileen Ash, who thanked red wine for her ability to still feel great at her age. Raise a glass to her, because as it turns out, science is in her favor: A study published in the journal Age and Ageing found that drinking alcohol (in moderate amounts) earlier in life can help protect against dementia later on.
So go ahead and drive that convertible, travel to another country, or challenge some kids to a dance battle, because it just may make your brain healthier.