11 Foods That Boost Brain Power
Many of us know quite a bit about eating a diet to keep a healthy body. We know that the food we eat makes a difference to our energy levels, our chances of fighting off common illnesses, and our ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Fewer of us know about how our diet can impact our brainpower. But, actually, food can make a real difference to how our brain performs. And this, in turn, can make a great difference to our everyday lives and our quality of life.
Whether you have an exam season coming up, a stressful new role in the office, or a new skill to master, there’s good reason to look at how nutrition can improve your brainpower.
Why improve brainpower?
There are lots of reasons why it’s worth giving the brain the best nutrition to improve its functionality and information processing power.
Firstly, our brain will process information quicker. This will help us greatly in our work or studies by allowing us to complete tasks more effectively or quickly. Our brain processing speeds should improve, leading to quicker reaction times and faster decision-making.
Our memory may improve, which means we’ll better be able to follow detailed instructions; we’ll retain more useful information, and we’ll waste less time writing lists or looking up things we’ve already learned.
Brain stamina should also increase. An increased concentration span means we’ll be able to achieve more with our day and stay more alert in those late-in-the-day meetings.
Our mood levels will be more stable, lessening the negative effects of anxiety and stress.
Finally, looking after your brain health now may help lessen your chances of suffering from degenerative diseases such as dementia in the future.
What nutrition does our brain need for optimum performance?
Like our bodies, our brain needs a steady supply of energy from slow-release carbohydrates. Quick-release carbohydrates like sugar and refined foods like white bread cause peaks and troughs in our energy levels, but whole-grain carbohydrates that take longer to digest are perfect for keeping brain performance levels high throughout the day. This will mean better brain stamina and a longer attention span.
Essential fatty acids (EFA) are also absolutely vital for brain health in a variety of ways. A lack of fatty acids has been linked with an increased risk of diseases that affect the brain, such as dementia. Lower levels of EFA are also associated with worse memory performance. They are also important for the manufacture of our brain’s “feel-good” hormone, serotonin. Great sources of EFA include nuts, seeds, and oily fish.
There are lots of chemical compounds found in fruit and vegetables that can help keep our brain healthy in the long-term. Phytochemical analysis reveals which plants contain active substances that can help our brain stay healthy in the long term.
Anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant, help protect against dementia and can be found in a number of berries and other purple foods. Similarly, lycopene limits damage from free radical chemicals which means they are important in the fight against dementia. Lycopene can be found in many red or pink-hued fruits such as watermelon or tomatoes.
B vitamins are also important for brain health. They reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Too much homocysteine can contribute to impaired brain function, or to higher chances of suffering a stroke.
A vitamin and mineral-rich diet is essential, not just for physical health. Vitamin C is thought to improve mental agility and beat brain fatigue, and vitamin K is also associated with better brainpower. Vitamin E is linked to slower cognitive decline among the elderly. Zinc is thought to be good for memory improvement.
So, what are the best sources of these vital nutrients?
11 Great Foods for Brain Power
This whole-grain carbohydrate is perfect for brain stamina. Additionally, brown rice contains both B-vitamins and vitamin E, both important for long-term brain health. Brown rice is also thought to have antidepressant properties due to its amino acids.
Packed full of vital EFA, wild salmon protects against disease and improves memory. Salmon is particularly good as it is one of the highest sources of DHA, which is the EFA that is essential for healthy neurons (which are basically the “microchips” of your brain or your brain’s data-processing units). DHA helps protect these neurons and helps them work at their best.
These tasty nuts are a vegetarian source of EFA, particularly DHA, so they are a great alternative to salmon.
Like all nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds contain EHA. However, these little seeds also have a higher concentration of zinc than most, which is thought to be great for memory. They also contain B vitamins, making them a great choice of snack or as an addition to a brain-boosting salad.
This purple-colored versatile vegetable can be roasted, made into soup, juiced, pickled, or even baked into chocolate cake. Great news, as beetroot is brilliant for brain health! Its rich purple color means it has plenty of anthocyanins, the antioxidant that helps protect the brain against dementia. Beetroot is also particularly high in nitrates, which help to increase blood flow to the brain.
These breakfast staples are rich in B-vitamins which help improve cognitive performance. The yolks contain the greatest concentration, so it’s important not to remove them when cooking if possible.
The cruciferous broccoli is a great source of three, particularly important nutrients for the brain: vitamin K, choline, and folic acid. Similar to vitamin B, choline is important for nerve function, and folic acid can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Black or green, olives are a good source of antioxidants and vitamin E which are both important for brain health. It is also thought that a daily helping of olives may improve memory due to the presence of polyphenols, a chemical that reduces oxidative stress in the brain.
Lemon is a great source of vitamin C, which can give your brain a boost from fatigue. Lemons also contain potassium and magnesium which help brain functioning, too. Lemon juice is a tasty addition to lots of foods like soups, salads, sauces, and baked goodies, and makes a refreshing drink when diluted with water.
The physical health benefits of spinach have been well-known for a while, thanks to Popeye, the muscle-popping spinach-consuming sailor. However, spinach is as good for your brain as your body. Like many leafy greens, it is full of vitamin K. This vital nutrient helps keeps you mentally sharp and can slow down aging in the brain.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil has all the same benefits for the brain as its parent, the olive, through its antioxidants, polyphenols, and vitamin E content. However, it is now thought that eating olive oil alongside other nutrient-rich food may help your body’s ability to absorb them. This means your body can get an extra boost when it is combined with other great brain foods like spinach or walnuts. Use some in a salad dressing or when cooking salmon, for instance.
Care for Your Brain
A diet that includes all these 11 foods, and lots of other fruits and vegetables, should provide everything you need for optimum brain health. After some time, you may see a real difference in your concentration span and your memory, especially if you previously consumed little of these foods.
However, remember that a good diet is not the only thing your brain requires for optimum health. Much like your body, your brain also needs sleep, exercise, and plenty of water to function well.