These 15 super foods are particularly useful in keeping our grey matter happy and healthy.
Did you know that the human brain is a hungry little organ? The brain requires a lot of nutrition to keep it humming along smoothly. Weighing in at only 2% of the total body weight, this all-important organ uses 20% of the body’s daily calorie intake!
Most people choose their food depending on taste, convenience or their waistline but eating for a healthy brain is really a lot smarter. Research has shown that certain foods can improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline and encourage focus and clarity. Choosing the right foods can make a really important difference to the health, vitality, and functionality of this all-important organ. So if you want to nurture your think-tank, here are 15 nutrient-dense brain foods you can start incorporating into your diet today.
Though it is hard to find a fruit that isn’t good for your brain, berries of all kinds, especially blueberries, have one of the strongest concentrations of phytochemicals available. These phytochemicals that make berries so colourful have been linked by research to better memory, learning, reasoning skills, decision-making, verbal comprehension, and numerical ability.
Thanks to its high levels of vitamin K and choline, eating broccoli can help keep your memory sharp. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane, a sulphur-based phytonutrient that can heal brain inflammation. It also has a sizeable content of folic acid that can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in memory and overall brain function.These little power-packed seeds also have an abundance of stress-busting magnesium, B vitamins, and tryptophan, the precursor to the feel-good chemical serotonin.
Beetroots are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat. The natural abundance of nitrates in beets boosts blood flow to the brain, improving mental performance, while cancer-protecting antioxidants help cleanse the blood of toxins. Regular intake of beets can create a potential safeguard against age-related brain diseases.
High in vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated fats, nuts are very good for your brain, particularly when it comes to preventing memory loss and cognitive decline. Walnuts, especially, have a specific type of antioxidants, called polyphenols, that work together with omega-3 fatty acids to boost brain power and performance.
6. Oily Fish
Oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are packed with supercharged omega-3 fatty acids that bolster communication among brain cells and help regulate neurotransmitters responsible for mental focus. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help manage brain stress and fight depression. Oily fish contain the active forms of these essential fats (that are not produced in the body), making it easy for the body to use them.
Avocado is fruit loaded with fibre and vitamins, but where it really shines is as a source of healthy fats that are essential for brain function. Avocados boost the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps you stay focused. Containing both vitamin K and folate, this fruit also helps in preventing blood clot formation in the brain.
8. Whole Grains
The primary fuel for the brain is glucose, which comes from carbohydrates such as whole grains. Since the body breaks down the carbs in whole grains very slowly, they help keep you sharp for several hours. On the other hand, processed grains cause energy levels to peak and then crash, leaving your brain feeling weak and exhausted.
9. Leafy Greens
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, moringa, and celery can slow the rate of cognitive decline. Filled with magnesium, leafy greens can help dilate blood vessels, which boost blood flow throughout the body and brain. Celery is also one of the richest sources of luteolin, a plant compound that is said to prevent age-related memory loss.
10. Egg Yolk
Eggs yolks are a leading source of choline. Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps you remember things and improve your overall cognitive skills. Yolks also have bethane, a chemical that produces hormones related to happiness.
11. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is full of flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains stimulants like caffeine and theobromine that increase the blood flow to both the brain and the heart. This contributes to the improved memory, focus and attention that chocolate lovers experience. And yes, the darker the chocolate, the more the brain benefits.
12. Sage and Rosemary
Carnosic acid, one of the main ingredients in herbs like rosemary and sage, helps protect the brain from free radicals that are linked to neurodegeneration, Alzheimer’s, strokes and brain ageing. These two herbs also stimulate nerve growth factor synthesis, a process that helps fight brain cell damage.
13. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil provides saturated fat, a vital nutrient for healthy brain cells. Intake of coconut oil also enhances the ability of the brain’s neurons to use energy by providing a secondary fuel source (MCT or Medium Chain Triglycerides) other than glucose. At the same time, it also helps reduce the production of harmful free radicals.
It’s the potent antioxidant curcumin in turmeric that makes this spice golden for your brain as well. Curcumin readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and improves your brain’s oxygen intake, keeping you alert and able to process information. Definitely a super spice!
In Ayurveda, Brahmi is known as a brain tonic and has been traditionally used to promote memory and a healthy central nervous system. Brahmi or Bacopa contains the saponins called bacosides, which increase the efficiency of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Its antioxidant and neuroprotective actions enhance mental function and ease anxiety.