Your brain, being the control center of your body, is constantly at work every second of the day. Every heartbeat your heart makes, every breath your lungs take, every image you see, every sensation you feel, every movement you make, every time you read, every memory you create, every time you are awake, and even when you are asleep, it is your brain at work – your brain is responsible for these actions. This is why paying attention to your brain health is of utmost importance.
The foods you take in play a huge role in boosting your brain health, thereby improving specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration. Just like a car cannot take you from home to work when it is not fueled, the brain, in the same way, cannot function when it lacks the vital nutrients it needs – which are obtained from a brain-boosting diet. Foods can have both direct and indirect effects on the brain and its functions.
Research has shown that certain foods are best for brain health improvement including memory and mood enhancement. Below is a list of these foods.
When you talk about foods that improve brain health, fatty fish is always at the top of the list. This is so because this type of fish is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, and since the brain is made up of 60% fat of which half comprises omega-3 fatty acids, it is no wonder that this food is often first on the list. Fatty fishes like barramundi, salmon, trout, and sardines are rich sources of omega-3s.
Your brain needs omega-3 fatty acids for the build-up of brain cells and neurons. They are also essential for learning and memory since they support proper blood flow in the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids improve several neurological conditions including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
Some research also suggests that people who eat fish often tend to have more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter contains most of the nerve cells bodies that control decision making, memory, and emotion. Your body cannot produce Omega-3s on its own, so you should include them in your diet.
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Coffee is another excellent brain-booster. Its two main components – caffeine and antioxidants – helps support brain health. The caffeine in coffee: keeps the brain alert by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that induces sleep; improves mood by boosting the neurotransmitter – dopamine – which is responsible for pleasure sensation; and, sharpens concentration.
The antioxidant component of coffee has been discovered to reduce the risk of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. According to Dr. Madalin, 2 cups of coffee a day can work the magic for your brain health.
Blueberries and other deeply colored berries are an excellent choice for your brain health. They contain anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, acting to reduce brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
These antioxidants also have been found to accumulate in the brain, helping to improve communication between brain cells. Be sure to include them in your diet.
Broccoli is highly rich in brain-healthy antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids. It is also very high in vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that is densely packed into brain cells. A few studies in older adults have shown that a higher intake of vitamin K boosted cognitive status and memory in them.
Broccoli also contains compounds that produce anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E. Some seeds, like pumpkin seeds, are also rich in zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron which are important elements for your brain.
One study found that regular consumption of nuts could be linked to a low risk of cognitive decline in older adults. All nuts are healthy for the brain, however, walnuts are more powerful. You should add them to your grocery list.
Eggs are a good source of some essential nutrients for brain health which are vitamin B6 and B12, folate, and choline in particular. The body uses choline to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory.
Eating eggs, especially egg yolk, is an easy way to get choline into your body and enrich your brain by its actions.
Vitamins B6 and B12 help to combat depression and aid slow progression of mental decline in adults by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that could be linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin B12 is also involved in the production of brain chemicals and the regulation of sugar levels in the brain. You should not run out of eggs.
Just like in coffee, the caffeine in green tea helps boost brain function and improve alertness, performance, memory, and focus levels.
One other component of green tea that makes it a brain-healthy beverage is L-theanine – an amino acid that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and gives a more relaxed feeling.
It is also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that could protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of neurological diseases. You should consider adding green tea to your list of healthy beverages.
One medium orange is enough to give you all the vitamin C your body needs in a day. Vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental health disorders.
One review linked improvements in tasks involving focus, memory, attention, and decision speed to having higher levels of vitamin C in the blood.
This water-soluble vitamin is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells. Also, vitamin C supports your brain health as you age and may protect against conditions like schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other sources of this vital vitamin include peppers, guava, kiwi, strawberries, and tomatoes. You should eat these fruits regularly.
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain flavonoids, a group of antioxidant plant compounds. The flavonoids in chocolate are important for brain health because it helps to reduce the level of oxidative stress that the brain is susceptible to, and help reduce the possibilities of getting age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.
Research carried out by the National Institutes of Health with a sample size of over 900 people, showed that those of them who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a series of mental tasks, including some involving memory, compared to those who rarely ate it.
According to research, chocolate is also a mood booster. One study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that participants who ate chocolate experienced positive feelings compared to those who ate crackers.
The amount of cocoa content in dark chocolate is 70% greater than that in milk chocolates, so how about you choose dark chocolate over their milk counterparts next time?
Whole grains such as oats and barley are rich in many of the B vitamins that work to reduce brain inflammation, thereby, preserving your memory.
Healthy food is of utmost importance for the improvement of brain health. Foods like fatty fish and walnuts should be eaten regularly for proper brain functioning and development.
For more powerful antioxidants needed by the brain, coffee, oranges, blueberries, broccoli, nuts, and seeds should be eaten more frequently. Dark chocolate (which contains a greater amount of cocoa as opposed to milk chocolates), coffee, eggs, and green tea (the brain-healthy beverage) will help boost memory.
Brain health is just as important as the health of every other organ in the body, and should not be under-emphasized. The above-mentioned foods should be eaten more frequently to enhance the proper functioning and development of this highly specialized organ.