Our brains are powerful organic machines. They control all thought, movement, and sensation while calculating and reacting with blistering speed. They store an immense amount of data as images, text, and concepts. Our brains also regulate thousands of complex functions, usually without bothering the conscious us with the exact details, such as with circadian rhythm, hormone balance, breathing, unconscious activity, and blood flow. This means the brain is constantly working, even when we sleep.
This also makes our brain the most energy greedy organ in our bodies, weighing only 2% of our total body weight but consuming more than 20% of our caloric intake. Then half of that energy goes toward the bioelectrical messages our brains send spiraling through the neurons and throughout the body.
We know that how we eat can affect our bodies, but what we put in our mouths also affects our mood, the brain’s energy, our memory, and even our ability to handle stress, complex problems, or simple daily tasks.
Here are 15 foods that promote & support brain health:
This fruit is one of the healthiest ones you can consume and one of the all-time favorites. While avocados often get a bad rep because of their high-fat content, it’s important to note that these green powerhouses are packed with monosaturated fats or the “good” kind, keeping blood sugar levels steady and your skin glowing.
Containing both vitamin K and folate, avocados help prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke), as well as help, improve cognitive function, especially both memory and concentration. They’re also rich in vitamin B and vitamin C, which isn't stored in your body and need to be replenished daily. Plus, they have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit.
Turmeric contains curcumin, an antioxidant that may prevent the development and accumulation of plaque formations linked with Alzheimer’s. Studies show that curcumin can protect against cognitive decline and lessen impairment in traumatic brain injury, and it may even stimulate new brain cell production.
3. “Oily” Fish
Numerous studies have revealed that “oily” fish like Salmon, Mackerel, and Trout, along with fish oil supplements, serve to promote optimal brain health. These fish contain high levels of an Omega-3 fatty acid called DHA.
The study revealed that DHA-rich fish improved both short-term “working” memory and long-term memory in the healthy adults who participated in the study. Findings also reveal that DHA is a key nutrient that has the power to actually prevent the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Other “oily” fish that are high in DHA include prawns and sardines. High levels of DHA are also found in certain shellfish, such as mussels.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides that the body uses for energy, leaving glucose for the brain. It also seems to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Anything that benefits the heart and circulation also benefits the brain. Coconut oil acts as an anti-inflammatory as well and has been linked to helping prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Beets can reduce inflammation, are high in cancer-protecting antioxidants and help rid your blood of toxins. The natural nitrates in beets actually boost blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance. Plus, during tough workouts, beets actually help boost energy and performance levels. I love them roasted or in salads — try my sweet potato beet hash or beet and goat cheese salad for some creative new ways to eat this brain food.
6. Beans And Legumes
Beans and legumes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates are also mixed with fiber that slows absorption, giving us a steady supply of glucose for the brain without the risks of sugar spikes associated with many other sugar sources. Beans and legumes are also rich in folate—a B vitamin critical to brain function—and essential omega fatty acids.
7. Bone Broth
Bone broth is the ultimate food for healing your gut and, in turn, healing your brain. This ancient food is full of health benefits, ranging from boosting your immune system, overcoming leaky gut, improving joint health and overcoming food allergies.
Its high levels of collagen help reduce intestinal inflammation and healing amino acids like proline and glycine keep your immune system functioning properly and help improve memory. Bone broth is what I prescribe most frequently to my patients because it truly helps heal your body from the inside out.
Spinach is high in lutein, an antioxidant that protects the brain from free radical damage and inflammation. People with mild cognitive impairment have been shown to have reduced lutein status, and boosting lutein levels has been shown to enhance learning and memory. Other good sources of lutein are kale, chard, collards and egg yolks.
For a vegetable with such few calories, celery sure does offer a lot of benefits. Its high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides act as natural anti-inflammatories and can help alleviate symptoms related to inflammation, like joint pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
Because it’s so nutrient-dense — packing loads of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients with very little calories — it’s a great snack option if you’re looking to shed pounds. And while we often eat celery stalks, don’t skip the seeds and leaves; both provide extra health benefits and taste great in things like stir fries and soups.
Eggs are loaded with choline, a type of B-vitamin that can enhance memory and cognition. It’s a component of phosphatidylcholine, a critical part of cell membranes, especially brain cells. Beef, fish, asparagus, collard greens and Brussels sprouts are other good sources.
11. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Real extra virgin olive oil is truly a brain food. Thanks to the powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that are found in the oil, including EVOO in your diet may not only improve learning and memory, but also reverse the age- and disease-related changes. The oil also helps fight against ADDLs, proteins that are toxic to the brain and induce Alzheimer’s.
As great as extra virgin olive oil is, remember that it’s not a good option for cooking, as it hydrogenizes and begins decomposing at high temperatures.
Lycopene-rich tomatoes have been found to help individuals maintain optimal brain health for longer, enabling their bodies to stave off the impact of damage that’s caused by free radicals, which progressively damage the brain over time, resulting in an age-related decline in mental capabilities.
Lycopene has been found to combat free radicals, which would otherwise damage brain cells. This damage results in decreased mental function across the board. Preventing this damage results in more robust performance in terms of memory, attention span, problem-solving and logic skills and concentration.
It turns out that eating walnuts can keep you from going nuts. Just munching on a few walnuts a day can improve your cognitive health. Their high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals also improve mental alertness. The vitamin E in the nuts can also help ward off Alzheimer’s.
Rosemary is high in carnosic acid, a phytochemical that enhances learning and spatial memory, reduces oxidative stress and prevents neuron damage. Studies suggest it can protect against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Carnosic acid is also found in sage and in small amounts in other foods.
15. Whole Grains
Whole grains are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and some Omega 3 fatty acids that shield the heart and brain from damaging sugar spikes, cholesterol, blood clots, and more. Grains also contain B vitamins that have an effect on blood flow to the brain and mood. Whole grains should be soaked, fermented, sprouted, or grown as micro greens to unlock all their nutritional power and minimize any anti-nutrients.
Brain-boosting foods are always available but we often neglect them. With the daily stressors we encounter, our brain also needs to have the nutrition it needs to function well and stay healthy and wise. In this post, I shared with you 15 foods that promote & support brain health.
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