The human brain is by far the most complex organ we have at our disposal.
Like an engine, it requires the right kind of fuel AKA food. Although some diets are better than others, there are certain superpowered foods out there that can boost and improve brain function, no matter your age.
Blueberries (Other Berries)
Besides being delicious, blueberries are chock-full of different health benefits.
Not only do they play a role in improving or delaying short term memory loss, but recent studies suggest that the high levels of antioxidants found in blueberries can help reduce oxidative stress, inflammation and prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Other deeply coloured berries also contain anthocyanins, the same protective compounds that give blueberries their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
These other berries include:
Salmon (Other Oily Fish)
Salmon and other oily fish are a rich source of omega-3s. These essential fatty acids (EFAs) can help improve cognition, prevent depression and help promote healthy brain function.
Omega-3s play a crucial role in the brain’s chemistry as they help build both brain and nerve cells. What’s more, they are believed to slow down the brain’s ageing process, and potentially ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other fish with high levels of omega-3s include:
Cocoa is a very trendy ingredient at the moment, and one of the best places to find it is in dark chocolate. The reason behind its popularity is that it contains flavonoids, a special group of antioxidant plant compounds that may help stimulate blood flow in the brain.
Studies have shown flavonoids to enhance memory formation and improve brain plasticity, which is vital for learning. Dark Chocolate also contains natural stimulants such as caffeine, which boosts concentration and endorphin production, helping improve your mood.
Vitamin E, antioxidants, healthy fats and plant compounds – the amount of brain-boosting nutrients found in nuts seems almost endless.
Vitamin E, for example, can help slow mental decline by shielding your brain from the damage it faces from free radicals.
In a 2014 study, it was said that a regular diet of nuts is “capable of altering cognitive performance in humans, perhaps forestalling or reversing the effects of neurodegeneration in ageing.” Another piece of research found that women who regularly ate nuts had a much sharper memory compared to those that didn’t.
Nuts that contain high levels of Vitamin E:
- Walnuts (also high in omega-3s)
- Brazil Nuts
Similar to nuts, wholegrains contain a wealth of vitamin E which, of course, promotes cardiovascular health.
Wholegrains with a low Glycemic Index (GI) slowly release glucose into your system throughout the course of the day, keeping you mentally alert from dusk ‘til dawn.
Make sure to go for ‘brown‘ wholegrain options such as:
- Bulgur Wheat
- Granary Bread
- Wholegrain Rice and Pasta
- Wholegrain Cereals
It’s a well-known fact – Avocados are incredibly nutritious.
This unique fruit is high in healthy unsaturated fats, much-needed vitamins and potassium (more than bananas!).
What makes it so good for your brain is a special component known as oleic acid. This monounsaturated fatty acid plays a part in reducing blood pressure and improving blood flow, two important prerequisites for a healthy brain.
Eggs are a wonderful source of B vitamins, such as B6, B12 and folate. These nutrients, folate in particular, are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Too much homocysteine in your body can be a leading factor in mental decline as well as depression.
Another essential component present in eggs is Choline. This micronutrient allows your body to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is central to regulating mood, memory and mental function.
Pumpkin seeds are filled with powerful antioxidants and several nutrients tied to brain health. Copper, iron, magnesium all play a huge role in improving brain function, as well as learning and memory.
Zinc alone can enhance your memory and thinking skills, and a deficiency in this valuable mineral can lead to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Parkinson’s disease.
Broccoli is jam-packed with powerful plant compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that protect the brain from free radicals and other age-related afflictions.
It is also a great source of vitamin K, a fat-soluble nutrient that is essential in the creation of your brain cells. A recent study from 2016 shows evidence of vitamin K improving memory in older adults.
Turmeric is lucky enough to house a brain-boosting chemical known as curcumin, which delivers many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
In multiple studies, curcumin has been shown to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s by clearing the amyloid plaques that can arise from the disease. It doesn’t stop there, as curcumin can help boost serotonin and dopamine levels, both of which can improve your mood.
One of the best ways to get curcumin into your diet is in a lovely cup of tea. Find out more about the amazing health benefits of turmeric tea and how to make it right here.
Exercise Your Brain
It’s not just food that keeps your brain ticking. There are plenty of activities available that can boost brain function. To find out more, read our guide on How to Improve Memory and Concentration: 5 Best Ways to Exercise Your Brain.