June 14, 2017

Cooking for Cognition: Making a Meal Is Good for Your Brain

Cooking for Cognition: Making a Meal Is Good for Your BrainIf you feel at home in the kitchen, planning and preparing nutritious meals, congratulations! You’re not only refueling your body; you’re stimulating your brain with the type of workout it needs to remain healthy.

“A nourishing, home-cooked meal, shared with friends or family, touches on three of the six pillars of brain health,” says Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “This familiar activity exercises the brain, provides the nutrition our bodies crave and encourages social interaction, all of which are critical to preserving cognitive fitness.”

Dr. Cummings notes that many brain processes involved in getting dinner on the table are classified as executive functions, which help us plan and control goal-directed thoughts and actions.

“Executive functions test our ability to organize, prioritize, sustain focus, solve problems, retrieve memories and multitask,” he explains. They are located principally in the prefrontal regions of the brain’s frontal lobe, with connections to other brain regions.

Producing a holiday dinner with all the trimmings will surely tax your executive functioning, but smaller-scale meals demand equivalent skills:

Executive function applies to another dimension: managing frustration and controlling emotions. You may have to draw on these cognitive resources if your meal preparation goes awry or your dinner falls flat, despite your best efforts. Don’t despair. Grace under pressure is just one more sign of a healthy brain!

For more information on how you can keep your brain engaged and reduce risk for brain decline, visit HealthyBrains.org. Want to exercise your executive function? Try preparing one of our recipes for brain health  HealthyBrains.org/recipes.