Which foods are great for our brain?
Our most important organ simply needs high-quality foods. And it cannot run indefinitely on junk foods like pizzas, burgers, and cokes, it simply doesn’t work that way. People who take care of their mental health (both mental and physical) will make sure to only eat the best brain food available.
Luckily for us, scientists coming from various fields of research have delved deep into the subject of brainpower, and have been able to select the ones which will increase our cognitive potential and help us jump over those mental hurdles we face each day.
Here’s the list of some of the most effective power foods for the brain, backed up by cutting-edge, modern scientific research (Harvard Medical School; Kennedy, 2015):
Fish from sustainable sources, wild and more specifically, fatty fish. We’ve all heard of the amazing omega-3 fatty acids and its properties as one of the best foods that boost brainpower.
Why are omega-3 fatty acids so healthy for the brain? Thanks to their effect on the blood levels a substance called beta-amyloid, which is a protein that has been linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
Needless to say, these beneficial acids are available in the form of supplement tablets and capsules, which is a good solution if you don’t like fish or are a vegetarian or vegan. Be careful not to eat too much fish that contains mercury and led. Fish like salmon and cod is a safe pick when it comes to mercury levels, but still, try not to eat it more than once or twice a week.
Vegans can opt to add more seaweed into their diet, be it in fresh, dried or powdered form. You can easily buy Omega 3 supplements that are made out of seaweed and get all necessary fatty acids this way without killing any fish.
2. Leafy, green vegetables
Vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, and collards are not only brain-healthy foods, but they are also good for the whole body! In essence, all vegetables that contain vitamin K, beta carotene, and folate will fuel brainpower, and the ones we’ve mentioned have the highest concentrations of these healthy substances.
With these nuts, you won’t go nuts! Joke aside, walnuts have a healthy combo consisting of various proteins and fats, which are ideal nutrition for your cognitive system. Just like fish, walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, but they also have ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which lowers blood pressure thus protecting arteries. Good cardiovascular health is essential for preventing strokes (arteriosclerosis), which is another reason walnuts are good food for the mind.
4. Coffee and Tea
While caffeine might improve your short-term performance, there might be some long-term memory improvements linked with caffeine-consumption. According to the Journal of Nutrition 2014 study, caffeine-rich beverages like coffee and black tea consolidate memory and help with the acquisition of new information. Be careful not to drink too much caffeine, as you’ll only end up with a fast heartbeat and excessive tension.
Berries as the best brain food
Various types of berries are rich in flavonoid antioxidants, which scientists proved to improve mental clarity. Brain health benefits of antioxidants found in berries include:
- Improvement of synaptic efficiency
- Decreased risks of inflammation in the whole body
- Mitigating the effects of age and cognitive deterioration
While we would advise you to eat any kind of berries you find, these are the best brain-boosting berries:
In one research, it has been found that women who ate two servings of blueberries and strawberries per week delayed cognitive deterioration by up to two years!
Chocolate: food that improves brain functioning
We are lucky with this one! One recent study (published in 2017), suggests that cocoa derivates (i.e. chocolate) might improve your neurophysiological system. Thanks to flavanol, chocolate improves faculties like reaction time and memory- and it has been found that simple reaction time correlates highly with intelligence. And these kinds of benefits are lined with short-term consumption!
There are also long-term benefits of chocolate consumption. It has been found that older people (from 50 to 69 years of age) who had a cocoa-rich diet in the span of three months performed better on memory tests than the control group.
It is also known that cocoa improves the cardiovascular system and oxygen flow, which puts chocolate high on the list of brain-healthy foods. Neural electrical cell activity is also improved thanks to the flavanol-rich diet. Note that researchers are not unanimous when it comes to all these improvements, so eating tons of chocolate every day might not be that helpful. Diversity is the key.
Chocolate dopamine activation is an indirect way this food will ameliorate your brainpower. More specifically, the dopamine rush you get after eating chocolate helps you feel better and thus be more efficient in whatever you do.
Veganism and brain health
Recently, numerous books that boast the effects of a vegan diet appeared. Neal Barnard, for instance, wrote the book Foods for the Brain and praised the benefits of veganism.
Vegans are not missing out on healthy food for the brain. As showcased earlier on, most of the important brain foods are indeed vegetarian and vegan in origin. Even Omega-3 and other important macronutrients are easily available from non-animal sources.
For instance, vegans can also turn to these brain foods:
- Roasted soya
Your brain likes it when you spice it up a bit
As it turns out spices are not only good for taste but for making your brain healthy too! Things like cinnamon, sage, ginger, and, the most important one, curry.
For instance, sage is good for memory and might help people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Cinnamon lowers oxidative stress in the brain, while ginger owes its effect to its anti-inflammatory properties.
But curry is perhaps the most interesting brain food in this section, thanks to turmeric, and ingredient that few other spices and herbs contain. One study has shown that even low concentrations of turmeric lower the rates of dementia. For quite some time, scientists believed that the brain doesn’t make new cells. However, this myth has been long ago busted, and it is known that turmeric encourages the development of new brain cells.
Last but not least, turmeric may enhance your brainpower by battling mental illnesses like depression. This important chemical found in curry increases the levels of serotonin and dopamine.
We’ve mentioned the most important foods that boost brainpower. Needless to say, you don’t have to consume all those groceries that boost the efficiency of your cognitive system. Just try to add them sparingly, and refill your balance of the needed nutrients with varied berries and so on., Do it regularly.
Whilst eating a healthy neuro diet is a good thing, being obsessed with it is not. Just look at it this way – drinking coffee is shown to boost cognitive capacities, but you cannot run exclusively on coffee. Just add a few berry snacks, and spice up your meals with cinnamon, curry, pepper, or sage, vary the above mentioned foods in your daily regimen and you’ll have nothing to worry about.
How often should I eat food for the mind? There are so many healthy foods for the mind that you can experiment each day and never have the same meal! You can eat foods that will boost your neurological system each day, provided that your consumption is moderate. For instance, while tea is good for the brain, this doesn’t mean you should drink gallons of green tea per day. A cup or two should be fine. The same goes for chocolate, berries, and other things we’ve mentioned.
How to organize nutrition for the mind? There are two ways – either you will add a bit of mind nutrition to each of your meals, or you can make one super-brain boosting meal per day. You decide. Make it fun and exciting though.