Feeding our brain is a hot topic in the nutrition and wellness world. And it should be! Studies have shown that eating certain foods can help ward off Alzheimer’s and improve memory. But feeding your brain with high quality, unprocessed foods has been linked to incredible benefits that translate into a higher quality of life and increased productivity.
There are, of course, foods we are wanting to keep out of our typical day-to-day diets. Foods such as sodas, cakes, and cookies that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners have been linked to interruptions in the brain. Also, limiting processed foods that contain simple grains such as enriched flour, may have a detrimental effect on your brain power.
Instead, focusing on whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals have been proven to help with memory, computing power, and preventing disease. Here are some great brain-healthy foods that really pack the power:
Good for both your heart and your brain, all nuts, in general, are good sources of healthy fats. Walnuts specifically are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of the famous Omega-3 fatty acid. In fact, a study completed in 2015 linked increased walnut consumption with improved cognitive testing scores.((Cleveland Clinic: Food for Brain Health))
Fatty fishes such as salmon have gotten so much great attention related to their healthy fat content. Well here is another benefit to add to the list:
Because salmon is such an abundant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, they are a good source of decreasing blood levels of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is the protein that forms the dangerous clumps in your brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease. ((Harvard Health Publishing: Foods linked to better brainpower))
It is now known that the neurons in our brains can continue to form new connections throughout adulthood which were once believed to be impossible. One of the main drivers in the process of building these new pathways is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
The great news is that it is likely that turmeric can increase BDNF levels leading to improved brain function and decreased the risk of degenerative brain processes. ((Healthline: 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin))
The anti-oxidative properties of berries are powerful! It has been shown that consuming at least two servings of berries each week can improve memory and prevent memory decline.
With the composition of your brain being mostly fat, 60% to be exact, the fat-soluble nutrients in tomatoes act as a powerful safeguard. Specifically known as carotenoids, these nutrients are great antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals. This is an important process to keep your brain functioning at its highest level. ((Psychology Today: Fat Brains Need… Tomatoes.))
6. Chia Seeds
Another great source of healthy fats, the Omega-3 fatty acids found in chia seeds are a powerful brain enhancer. ((Nutrition Letter: Should You Jump on the Chia Seeds Bandwagon?))
Here’re the amazing benefits of chia seeds (and some refreshing recipes).
Research suggests that consuming dark green vegetables regularly slows cognitive decline. This is likely due to these veggies being rich in brain-healthy nutrients such as Vitamin A, K, folate, lutein, and fiber.
Studies from 2006 showed that a common compound in apples, quercetin, may protect the neurons in our brain against oxidation. It is believed that the quercetin reduces cellular death in the brain related to oxidation and inflammation of the neurons. This process may play an important role in reducing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. ((Medical News Today: Apples: Health benefits, facts, research))
Again! Those leafy greens! Leafy greens are a powerhouse of brain protective nutrients and antioxidants.
Onions are a good natural source of folate. Folate has been shown to improve the blood flow to the brain by decreasing homocysteine levels in the body. This also may have beneficial effects for those suffering with depression. ((Medical News Today: Health benefits and risks of onions))
11. Flax Seeds
Another rich source of Omega 3 and ALA! Flax seeds can help reduce blood pressure and therefor improve blood flow to the brain. This reduction of blood pressure also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. It’s a win, win!
The caffeine in your daily cup of Joe may be doing more than wake you up. A 2014 study showed that those with higher caffeine consumption had improved test scores on mental function and had better memory recall. ((Harvard Health Publishing: Foods linked to better brainpower))
The combination of caffeine and the amino acid L-Theanine found in tea has been shown to have powerful effects on brain function. In a 2017 study, green tea was shown to improve cognition, memory power, and reduce anxiety. ((Phytomedicine.: Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review.))
The Bottom Line
There are many foods that have been shown to benefit the brain! What is most important to keep in mind is to focus on whole, real foods.
In summary and in looking at the above list, you can see that nature has powerful benefits. Eating what nature is providing us is the fastest way to feeding your brain.