Just like you keep your body healthy by working out and eating right, you also need to keep your brain healthy too. Your brain is the central hub for all your thoughts and actions, so it’s kind of a big deal.
Eating the right foods can not only improve your physical health, but they can also keep your brain strong. Taking care of your brain can help keep your mind sharp by improving memory, concentration, and mental clarity.
Eating the right foods can help protect your brain from things like heart disease and may it even reduce your risk of dementia. Research also indicates that other health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure can be lowered with a healthy diet.
There are seven main food groups that you can focus on to help fuel your brain throughout the day. Here are a few foods to get you started that you can incorporate into your meals.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids and according to Healthline, about 60% of your brain is made of fat.
Professor John Gilmer, Vice President of Research & Development at Active Iron, explains that this fat is used as the building blocks of your brain to create brain and nerve cells which assist in sharpening your memory, improving your mood, and protecting your brain against degeneration.
A great source of these omega-3’s your body needs is from as salmon, trout, and sardines. Salmon specifically includes vitamins, proteins, and minerals that are essential for healthy neurological function.
Eating salmon can also reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease by providing the healthy fats your body needs.
2. Seeds and Nuts
Similar to fish, seeds and nuts are another great source of these Omega-3’s. Research from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Physicians’ Health Study, tested 120,000 participants over the course of 30 years. These participants ranged from never eating nuts, from eating nuts seven or more times per week.
The study concluded that the nut eaters were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.
These foods include almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, cashews, and so many more.
Caleb Backe, a Personal Trainer and Health & Wellness Expert for Maple Holistic states pumpkin seeds specifically “are rich in zinc which is a necessary nutrient for regulating nerve signaling, enhancing clarity, and boosting memory.
The seeds also contain tryptophan, which is the amino acid that makes up serotonin. Serotonin is your feel-good hormone and therefore pumpkin seeds also have mood-boosting properties.”
3. Berries and Other Fruits
Blueberries specifically have been named a super-food that can boost cognitive function. Backe recommends blueberries because they contain numerous health benefits.
“The presence of anthocyanins in this berry make it a powerful antioxidant. This protects the brain from oxidative stress which can play a key role in preventing neurodegenerative diseases.”
He also explains that “the antioxidative properties also aid in communication between brain cells and can improve your memory.
Another fundamental element of why blueberries keep your mind strong is their anti-inflammatory properties. A reduction of inflammation in the brain is vital in maintaining optimal brain functioning.”
Another fruit that will do the trick is oranges, because they are high in vitamin C, which is a main factor to help prevent mental decline, like Alzheimer’s disease. This powerful antioxidant helps protect brain cells and can support your health as you age.
4. Vegetables and Leafy Greens
Research suggests plant-based foods may help prevent cognitive decline, so make sure to eat your vegetables! Great examples of these foods are kale, spinach, and broccoli. Foods like these are full of nutrients and antioxidants that strengthen the brain.
Backe adds that in addition to having antioxidants “broccoli has a high level of vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for the formation of sphingolipids. Sphingolipids is a fat type found in brain cells and contains several compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components. These components guard the brain against damage.”
That’s right, your morning caffeine fix is actually good for your brain. But before you get too excited and reach for your favorite energy drink, we’re not talking about any kind of caffeine. Specifically, coffee and green tea contain antioxidants that help strengthen your brain.
Gilmer explains that “caffeine has been found to increase alertness and improve mood. Caffeine assists in increasing your brain’s alertness through the blocking of adenosine, which is a chemical messenger that creates a feeling of sleepiness. Caffeine assists in improving your mood due to its ability to increase serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter.”
6. Dark Chocolate
Yes, you read that right–dark chocolate is actually good for your brain! Glimmer states “dark chocolate is full of brain-boosting compounds, such as flavonoids–a group of antioxidants–and caffeine. The flavonoids in the brain gather in areas that account for your learning and memory. These compounds have been found to enhance your memory in addition to helping protect the brain from mental decline related to age.”
In order to be effective though, dark chocolate has to be 70% cocoa, it can’t be your typical Hershey’s bar. Nevertheless, it can be a great treat to look forward to. So, at the end of the day, treat yourself to a square of dark chocolate–it’s good for your brain.
Eggs contain several nutrients that are related to brain health, and they are a staple in any good breakfast. Caleb explains that “presence of B6, B12, and folic acid in eggs mean that they play a crucial role in reducing cognitive impairment.
Likewise, eggs contain choline, which is a micronutrient used to make acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter used to regulate your mood and memory, so adding eggs to your diet can help keep your mind strong.”
Brain health is just as important as physical health. You may not see the benefits now, but as you get older your brain health will determine how you age. To help prevent mental decline, start incorporating these brain-healthy foods into your daily diet.