There are certain things we can eat and drink that can help keep our brain healthy and can improve memory and concentration. Some studies have shown that certain foods can even help prevent neurological, and psychiatric disorders such as Depression, Parkinsons and Dementia.
Your brain is the control center of your body. It keeps your heart beating, lungs breathing and allows you to move, feel, and think. You are what you eat. That’s why nourishing yourself with the right foods is so important.
Keep reading to see which foods can boost your brain power.
1. Fatty fish
When people talk about brain foods, fatty fish is usually at the top of the list. This includes salmon, trout, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines, all of which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
So why do Omega-3 fatty acids matter? About 60% of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is comprised of omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory.
Omega-3s also offer several additional benefits for your brain. For one thing, they may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. On the flip side, not getting enough omega-3s is linked to learning impairments, as well as depression.
Some research also suggests that people who eat fish regularly tend to have more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter contains most of the nerve cells that control decision making, memory, and emotion.
Our Morning cup-of-Joe contains 2 main components— caffeine and antioxidants. Both of which can help support brain health.
The caffeine found in coffee has many positive effects on the brain, including:
Caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you feel sleepy. Caffeine may also boost some of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. One study also found that caffeine consumption led to short-term improvements in attention and alertness in participants completing a cognition test.
Drinking coffee over the long-term is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The largest risk reduction was seen in those adults who consumes 3-4 cups daily.
Blueberries provide various health benefits, but most importantly are the benefits for your brain.
Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Antioxidants act against both oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
Some of the antioxidants in blueberries have been found to accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells. According to a review of 11 studies, blueberries could help improve memory and certain cognitive processes in both children and older adults.
Turmeric is a spice that has a number of benefits for the brain and body.
The active ingredient in Turmeric is Curcumin, which has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there. It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked various benefits.
It may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s, & help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease.
Curcumin boosts serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve mood. One review found that curcumin could improve symptoms of depression and anxiety when used alongside standard treatments in people diagnosed with depression.
Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants.
It’s also very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake in a 1-cup serving of cooked broccoli. This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells.
A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory and cognitive status. Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free-radical damage. They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper which are all important for brain health:
Zinc is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.
Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraine, depression, and epilepsy.
Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of whack, there’s a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s.
Iron deficiency is often characterized by brain fog and impaired brain function.
7. Dark chocolate
Yes...chocolate! Dark chocolate, or more specifically, cocoa is packed with a few brain-boosting compounds, including flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants.
Dark chocolate has a 70% or greater cocoa content. These benefits are not seen with regular milk chocolate, which contains between 10–50% cocoa.
Flavonoids are a group of antioxidant plant compounds. The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory. Researchers believe that these compounds may enhance memory and also help slow down age-related mental decline. In fact, a number of studies back this up. According to one study in over 900 people, those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a series of mental tasks, including some involving memory, compared with those who rarely ate it.
Chocolate is also a legitimate mood booster, according to research. One study found that participants who ate chocolate experienced increased positive feelings compared to those who ate crackers.
Research has shown that eating nuts can improve heart-health markers, and having a healthy heart is linked to having a healthy brain.
One study found that regular consumption of nuts could be linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline in older adults.
Another study found that women who ate nuts regularly over the course of several years had a sharper memory compared with those who did not eat nuts.
There are a number of useful nutrients in nuts, such as healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, may explain their beneficial effects on brain health. Vitamin E protects cells against free-radical damage to help slow mental decline.
While all nuts are good for your brain, walnuts may have an extra edge, since they also deliver anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
You can get almost all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating one medium orange. Doing so is important for brain health since vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental decline.
According to one study, having higher levels of vitamin C in the blood was associated with improvements in tasks involving focus, memory, attention, and decision speed.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells. Plus, vitamin C supports brain health as you age and may protect against conditions like major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
You can also get high amounts of vitamin C from other foods like bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Eggs are a good source of several nutrients tied to brain health, including vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and choline.
Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.
Two studies found that higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function. Nevertheless, many people do not get enough choline in their diet. Eating eggs is an easy way to get choline, given that egg yolks are among the most concentrated sources of this nutrient. Adequate intake of choline is 425 mg per day for most women and 550 mg per day for men, with just a single egg yolk containing 112 mg.
Furthermore, the B vitamins found in eggs also have several roles in brain health.
To start, they may help slow the progression of mental decline in older adults by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that could be linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Being deficient in two types of B vitamins — folate and B12 — has been linked to depression. Folate deficiency is common in older people with dementia, and studies show that folic acid supplements can help minimize age-related mental decline.
Vitamin B12 is also involved in synthesizing brain chemicals and regulating sugar levels in the brain.
11. Green tea
As is the case with coffee, the caffeine in green tea boosts brain function.
In fact, it has been found to improve alertness, performance, memory, and focus. But green tea also has other components that make it a brain-healthy beverage.
One of them is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed. L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you feel tired. One trial found that the L-theanine in green tea can help you relax by counteracting the stimulating effects of caffeine. It’s also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that could protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
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Green Mountain Research Institute 2023