Research is fairly conclusive that there are foods that boost brain power and help promote a healthy mental state and focus. In a recent blog about Omega 3’s & 6’s – we talked about the benefits that Omega Fatty Acids have on memory and the brain. In Meal Planning for a Healthy Gut we talked about foods that are good for your gut and digestive tract – but in all reality, these foods overall, together, are incredible for healthy brain function! This is how nutrition activates your brain.
First, we need to talk about Nootropics. Sometimes referred to as “smart drugs” or “cognitive enhancers”, these are products designed to support cognitive function, memory, creativity, executive functions and even motivation. They come in a wide variety of forms from drinks, to OTC/prescription drugs, to foods, and supplements. In fact, millions of people take a very basic Nootropic every day – Caffeine! Other simple Nootropics that are often overlooked are L-Theanine, Creatine, Ginseng, and even Nicotine. Of course, Nicotine is known to be an addictive substance and is lethal in high doses, so it’s typically not recommended. However, nicotine use may be recommended by physicians for some people who are trying to quit smoking.
Nootropics are making a wave right now and are quickly becoming a standard in Silicon Valley executive offices, however if you want to get a small taste of what nootropics can do, there are several foods that have been shown to enhance cognitive abilities
Like we mentioned earlier, foods high in Omega Fatty Acids are great for the brain. We can add to that list: foods high in Antioxidants, Vitamin E and K, Flavonoids, and Proteins are all helpful in enhancing memory and concentration, and honing in on mental clarity.
- Oily Fish
- Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Herring and Sardines are extremely helpful fatty fish, and not just their oils either. The meat and skin of fish are rich in proteins as well checking multiple brain food boxes.
- Dark Chocolate (it’s okay, you can do a little dance)
- I was happy to find this one as well. Cacao is heavily rich with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning.
- Flavonoids, also the plant pigment responsible for giving berries their brilliant hues, help sustain healthy memory functions in the brain, research shows. The wider the variety, the better the health benefits Harvard Health suggests.
- Nuts, Seeds, and Whole Grains
- Both are wildly rich in Vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health during the regular brain aging process. Nuts and Seeds also are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids – another healthy brain booster.
- Avocados and Eggs
- Abundant with B Vitamins and and Unsaturated Fat, both of these options are great snacks and pair well at breakfast!
- Leafy Greens
- Kale, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods help support healthy cognitive function.
Caffeine is a Nootropic as we discussed earlier, but what other drinks contain some extra brain boosters.
- Nothing new, but an excellent source of caffeine without all the added sugars, carbs, fats, calories added dyes or sweeteners (unless you need to have your Pink Drink, but hey… we all splurge).
- Soy Products
- Soybeans have a very specific group of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Soybeans are known to contain several strands of Polyphenols such as: isoflavens, daidzeins, and genisteins. This includes not just the bean itself, but byproducts like Soy Milk and even Tofu.
- Many teas are packed full of Ginseng and Oolong – both are in the same camp as caffeine and help keep you alert, awake, and focused.
Not always solids, not always liquids, Oils can be used as cooking agents, in drinks, or as toppings, or even dressings. Oils like Sunflower Oil, Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil and Peanut Oil (Monounsaturated Fats the ones that aren’t solid at room temperature) are healthy fats and have been known to support cardiovascular health and in turn, brain health.
Remember that the further you are from processed foods and ingredients the better. Your brain needs oxygen, and your brain needs nutrition – this comprehensive list is just a starters list of good proteins, oils, and antioxidants that help to provide that nutrition your brains needs. Always delve into your own research and find what foods fit well for your brain, and which you like to eat the most.
You are what you eat, so eat smart – don’t just eat for your stomach anymore, eat for brain power!
Always consult a doctor or physician before altering diet or making severe changes in your daily dietary or physical routines.
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