The brain, like the rest of our body, relies on specific nutrients for its proper function. Certain foods offer nutrients which supply the brain with raw materials that maximizefunction allowing the brain to perform at optimum levels.
For best learning, memory, mood levels, creativity and a host of other brain-dependent activities, the following foods are key to incorporate in your diet.
1. Fatty fish: sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, cod, carp, redfish, red snapper
high in Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA (also important for brain development and function)
According to 2016 JAMA study, consuming fish just once a week was correlated with less Alzheimer disease neuropathology.
Make it work in my life: For dinner one night, bake one of the above drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper.
nut highest in Omega -3 ALA (alpha linoleic acid)
improve memory, cognition, & motor function
reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the aging brain
high in vitamin E
Make it work in my life: Sprinkle your morning yogurt, warm cereal, or afternoon salad with a small handful of walnuts.
rich source of “good fat” (monounsaturated) and tyrosine
contributes to healthy blood flow and lower blood pressure which helps prevent a decrease in cognitive abilities
reduce effects of acute stress
reduce oxidative stress
Make it work in my life: Give avocado toast a try! Spread a quarter of an avocado on a slice of toast in the morning for a rich, savory and filling start to the day. Feel free to get creative by adding a sliced hard or soft-boiled egg (and knock out the #4 food while you are at it), sliced mango, or just a dash of black pepper.
Improve cognitive function
May help delay brain shrinkage because of certain b-vitamins (B12 and folic acid) which are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Reduced brain shrinkage was shown in a study of elderly patients given B6, B12 and folic acid for two years when compared to a placebo group. (chicken, fish and leafy greens are also vitamin B-rich foods)
Make it work in my life: Try something new with swapping out the mayo for avocado in your egg-salad sandwich at lunch. These two go incredibly well together and you just may decide not to switch back to mayo.
5. Dark Chocolate: 70% or higher
improvement in depressive brain disorders likely due to anti-inflammatory properties
improvement in cognitive performance, restoration of working memory accuracy following sleep deprivation in one study of 32 women
increases blood flow to the brain and the heart
contains several stimulating chemical compounds that have a positive effect on mood and cognition
contains phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA encourages the brain to release endorphins and feel alert.
Make it work in my life: Opt for a dark chocolate bar with 70% or higher cocoa content and one that can be broken into smaller sections in order to exercise portion control. A fun way to enjoy this treat is to set up a small bowl or dessert cup containing pieces of dark chocolate, walnut halves, and berries.
all berries are high in antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress in the body, which has been linked to neurodegenerative processes
can prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases and improve motor and cognitive functions
aid in modulating signaling pathways involved in inflammation, cell survival, neurotransmission and enhancing neuroplasticity. This is related to phytochemicals of anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, quercetin, kaempferol, and tannin
~Strawberry: improves cognitive function, improves motor behavioral performance, may promote special learning and memory
~Bilberry: protect blood vessels and improve blood circulation, prevents learning and memory deficits
~Black Currant: neuroprotective
~Blackberry: protect against neurodegeneration, increase spacial and learning memory ~Blueberry: benefit learning and memory
Make it work in my life: Choose a new berry each week to try. You can add half a cup to an afternoon salad or add to a smoothie with ice, water, and protein powder to power you through your afternoon.
7. Spinach, Collard, Mustard Greens & Kale
• high in Vitamin K which increases cognitive abilities
Make it work in my life: Experiment with different greens both raw and cooked. Greens aren’t just for salads! You can sauté your greens and serve them over fish or chicken or add them to a morning omelet.
• anti-inflammatory, use black pepper to potentiate effects when cooking w/ this spice
Make it work in my life: Turmeric has an earthy flavor, which goes well with beans and proteins. You can add this to meat and bean dishes easily.
Next time you are perusing the grocery aisles, remember that you are fueling your brain, not just your stomach. With this simple list of eight items, you can easily begin to incorporate smart eating into your menu plan at each meal. Let us know about the creative ways you are finding to sneak in “The Great 8” to your daily routine.