Brain foods are those rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They nourish both the body and the mind and help boost energy levels without caffeine or other stimulants. The best brain foods help produce hormones that increase alertness and attention span while helping the mind process new information. Science proves these foods increase focus, making them great snacking options when studying for a big test or preparing for an important meeting.
Beets are high in antioxidants and nitrates. The former can prevent cancer and help the liver detoxify the blood, while the latter increase blood flow to the brain. Beets help the brain to think clearly and increase attention span. Additionally, beets naturally increase energy levels and help boost athletic performance. This root vegetable can be eaten raw in salads or alone, and also makes a great addition to roasted vegetable medleys.
Avocado is a superfood high in monounsaturated fats. These healthy fats keep blood sugar at a steady level and help keep skin, hair, and nails looking and feeling healthy. More importantly, avocados are rich in folate and vitamin K, which improve cognitive brain functions such as concentration and memory. This diverse fruit can be added to smoothies for a creamy texture, but are also delicious on their own, spread on toast, or as the main ingredient in guacamole.
Broccoli is high in both choline and vitamin K. These nutrients contribute to memory function and focus. The veggie also has a lot of vitamin C and fiber. High levels of fiber help the body feel full quickly, reducing the amount of food it needs to be satisfied. Adding broccoli to stir-frys, stuffed chicken, or creamy casseroles is a great way to get more of this healthy vegetable.
Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain, which improves all-around cognitive function. It is high in flavonols and all their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. To reap all the benefits of chocolate, opt for varieties that are at least 70% cocoa. Milk chocolate and white chocolate are too high in refined sugars and other highly processed ingredients to provide the same health benefits as dark chocolate.
Salmon is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce brain fog and increase memory and concentration. Studies show consuming foods high in these fatty acids could help reduce the symptoms of ADHD and lower the risk of developing certain cancers. All types of salmon are high in omega-3s, but fattier fish sub-species will have more. The research on this varies, but some studies suggest Pacific chinook salmon have one of the highest concentrations.
Walnuts are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Snacking on walnuts can increase memory, alertness, and concentration. Studies show including walnuts regularly in one's diet could help decrease the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Walnuts make a healthy snack on their own or, for a treat, add them to cookies or use them to top ice cream.
Blueberries protect the brain from toxins, degeneration, and stress. They have one of the highest antioxidant levels of any food and can help ward off certain cancers and aging, as well as protect against environmental toxins. Blueberries are also high in fiber and vitamin K, the latter of which regulates calcium in the bones and brain.
Turmeric has strong healing and anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to the compound curcumin. The root has been popular in folk remedies for centuries, praised for its ability to heal wounds and ease illness. In the western world today, we mostly use turmeric to season foods, but even as a spice, these powers prevail, boosting overall immunity and oxygen intake in the brain, which increases alertness and focus.
Rosemary protects the brain from the effects of neurodegeneration, which can cause or exacerbate Alzheimer's disease and other age-linked conditions. It contains carnosic acid, an antioxidant that guards against chemical-free radicals that lead to degenerative disease. This savory herb can also protect against stroke and decrease macular degeneration and other vision problems. Rosemary has these benefits, whether consumed fresh, dried, or as an oil.
Coconut oil is a diverse superfood. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can boost memory and cognitive function. Replacing the fat in baking or cooking recipes with coconut oil is a simple way to incorporate it into one's diet. Applying it topically can help dry skin, stretch marks, and eczema.
Oxidative stress is one possible cause of declining brain health as people get older, and that process leaves many at an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant carotenoid lycopene, higher blood levels of which correlate with preserved cognitive function in older adults and less inflammation. More research is needed to prove this association but there are a variety of health benefits to consuming more lycopene-rich foods. Processed tomatoes, such as tomato sauce, are one of the best sources of lycopene.
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Pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and zinc. Data shows that these seeds consist of approximately 73 percent unsaturated fats, which play a role in reducing inflammation. Omega-3s and omega-6s are polyunsaturated fats that can't be made by the body; they help keep the frontoparietal region, the part of the brain known for problem-solving, more fluid. Pumpkin seeds also provide over 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance of zinc, which improves communication between neurons and may help reduce memory loss.
Since ancient Greece, sage has been sought out for improving cognition and mood. It contains monoterpenes and rosmarinic acid, which not only protect the plant from insects, but also improve memory. Sage is a natural anti-inflammatory, and it may protect the brain in part by inhibiting amyloid deposits, which are linked to diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.
Low to moderate red wine consumption has possible brain health benefits. Resveratol, a polyphenolic compound prominent in the beverage helps protect the brain by strengthening the blood-brain barrier and reducing the ability of immune system by-products to infiltrate the organ and cause disease. This polyphenol also inhibits the growth and invasion of brain tumor cells in some studies. More research is needed to confirm these findings.
Not only does coffee provide a quick energy jolt, but it also has a positive effect on cognition. Caffeine is the primary stimulant in coffee, but its true benefit comes from its ability to block adenosine, a natural central nervous system depressant. This increases attention, alertness, and boosts mood. In studies, caffeine ingestion is associated with better cognitive performance and slower cognitive decline into old age.
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