Food And Mind: 7 Foods That Are Beneficial For Your Brain
When we stop to think about our diet, we mostly consider how it affects our weight and health in general, rarely taking into account what it does to our brains. This is a common but big mistake, because the food we eat can have a huge impact on the capacity of our brains and even on our mood, both negative and positive.
The link between diet and brain health is particularly important in these times when our minds are exposed to information overload and everyday stress, all of which drain our energy. Since the brain is the organ that uses approximately 20% of the body’s total energy, we need food to fuel it for all the crucial processes it manages. So, if you want to boost your brainpower and improve your mood, here are some foods and beverages that will help you accomplish your goals.
Fatty fish (such as salmon, herring, and tuna) is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. These important fats contribute to building cell membranes around every cell in the body, including the ones found in the brain – neurons. A 2017 study that examined the interrelationships between omega-3 fatty acids status, brain perfusion, and cognition, showed that individuals with a higher level of omega-3s have better blood flow in the brain, which relates to better thinking and cognition abilities.
Besides fatty fish, you can get an additional amount of omega-3 fatty acids from flaxseeds, nuts, and soybeans.
That’s right, you weren’t imagining it. Your favorite pick-me-up beverage has brain-boosting capabilities. While it’s often deemed controversial, especially when taken in larger amounts, there are numerous health benefits to drinking coffee, and keeping the mind alert is one of them. This happens because the caffeine in coffee blocks adenosine, a substance in the brain that causes sleepiness. Furthermore, a 2018 study suggested that coffee could also increase the brain’s capacity to process information. It is also rich in antioxidants, known for their ability to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
Nuts and seeds
We’ve already talked about how nuts and seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient imperative for brain health. However, this is not the only ingredient that makes nuts and seeds mind-boosting foods. They are also rich in vitamin E and other vital antioxidants. A study that explored the long-term intake of nuts in relation to cognitive function in older women showed that nut intake is associated with better brain function in senior years.
Berries are often called “brain food,” mostly because they contain flavonoid antioxidants that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. These compounds found in berries can improve communication between brain cells, boost learning and memory, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and reduce and delay cognitive decline. Some of the most antioxidants-packed types of berries are mulberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
Another food rich in flavonoids you could enjoy is dark chocolate.
Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collards are all rich in brain-healthy nutrients, including folate, lutein, vitamin K, and beta-carotene. Various researchers tackled the connection between leafy greens and brain health, concluding that these foods slow down the decline in brain function, thanks to the abundance of nutrients that keep the brain sharp.
Eggs contain vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which contribute to lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases the risk of cognitive impairment, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Egg yolks also contain choline, which is crucial for the functioning of acetylcholine – a memory-boosting brain chemical. Other B-rich foods that can provide similar benefits are dairy, chicken, fish, and leafy greens.
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are high in plant-based protein and fiber, both of which contribute to overall health, but also to gut health, and consequently to improved mood.
Also, they are excellent sources of B vitamins, which increase the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). All of these neurotransmitters are crucial for regulating the mood. Other mood-boosting ingredients in beans and lentils include zinc, selenium, magnesium, and non-heme iron.
Final word: More brain-healthy foods you should know about, and foods you should avoid
Many other nutritional powerhouses can improve brain function and improve your mood. Tomatoes, avocados, green tea, oats, whole grains, bananas, fermented foods, cayenne pepper, oranges, celery, coconut oil, cinnamon, cucumber, turmeric, olive oil, etc.
Finally, there are also foods that can cause harm to your brain. So, steer clear of saturated fats, highly-processed and fried foods, refined sugar, and other things we, ironically, like to call “comfort foods”.
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