Try these eight "brain foods"
The foods you eat can affect more than just your waistline. A diet high in sugars and processed foods can weaken brain function. Your brain requires healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meat to keep it running smoothly.
The brain and gut share significant connections. The enteric nervous system in your gastrointestinal tract is even nicknamed the “second brain” due to this connection. This link can be seen in our daily lives; whenever you experience “butterflies in your stomach,” you are feeling that connection firsthand.
Take advantage of the relationship between your diet and brain function and eat these “brain-foods” to increase your mental alertness and mood.
Berries: Blueberries are rich in flavanols which have been shown to increase cognitive ability. Flavanols help improve blood flow to the brain. A recent study showed that those who consumed flavanols were able to correctly solve problems on cognitive tests 11% quicker.
Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of brain health. These healthy fats can be found in seafood like salmon, sardines, tuna, cod and oysters. Fish has many health benefits because it is high in protein and rich in nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin B2, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Leafy greens: Leafy greens are a staple of any healthy diet due to their high nutritional content. Spinach, arugula, kale and collards are rich in vitamins A and C and are high in fiber and folate. Broccoli is another “super food” packed with antioxidants, vitamin K and it has anti-inflammatory benefits. Try adding leafy greens to whole grain pasta, soups and smoothies to sneak in those extra nutritional benefits.
Nuts: Nuts like walnuts, pistachios and almonds are beneficial to your overall brain health. Almonds are known to help improve memory. Pistachios can help with inflammation and may help with cognition. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants and DHA, which improves learning ability.
Yogurt and other fermented food: The “Mediterranean Diet” is popular due to its numerous health benefits, including slowing the decline of brain function as you get older and lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease. Many of the foods in the traditional Mediterranean diet, such as Greek yogurt, olives and cheese, are fermented. The natural probiotics found in these foods provide healthy gut-restoring benefits.
Coffee and Tea: Coffee and tea are high in antioxidants and caffeine which can help with concentration and mood. Researchers found that women age 65 and up who drank two or three cups of coffee per day were less likely to develop dementia. Studies also show that caffeine is linked to a lower chance of developing Parkinson’s disease.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, similar to blueberries. Flavonoids help cognition and memory by improving blood flow to the brain. Eating dark chocolate regularly is even associated with a decreased risk of depression. Unfortunately, milk chocolate does not provide these benefits.
Turmeric and other spices: Turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, is thought to provide benefits for overall cognition, memory and preventing depression. Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits are notable. If you’re looking to start adding turmeric to your dishes, beans, vegetables or even scrambled eggs are a good place to start.
For more information, visit the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute homepage.