If you want to boost your brainpower, one of the best choices you can make is to eat more unprocessed whole foods. Real foods are full of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and countless other phytochemicals that nourish your brain cells. Here are 15 brain boosting foods you should be eating.
1. Oily Fish
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. Good sources include flaxseed oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. They are good for healthy brain function and general wellbeing.
Oily fish contains EPA and DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The main sources include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.
Celery is one of the richest sources of luteolin, a plant compound that is said to lower the rates of age-related memory loss. Luteolin calms inflammation in the brain, which doctors and scientists alike now believe to be the primary cause of neuro-degeneration. By inhibiting the action of inflammatory cytokines, luteolin can prevent the onset of degeneration in the brain.
Turmeric is a yellow spice often used in curry that contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant curcumin. Curcumin is capable of crossing your blood-brain barrier, which is one reason why it holds promise as a neuroprotective agent in a wide range of neurological disorders.
Research has shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques. Curcumin has even been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis.
Also remarkable, animal research suggests another bioactive compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent at certain concentrations. Neural stem cells differentiate into neurons and play an important role in self-repair.
The findings suggest aromatic-turmerone may help in the recovery of brain function in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and stroke.
In order to process new information our brain cells need to “talk” to each another. Yet, as we age those cells become inflamed making it harder for them to communicate with one another. Blackberries can get the conversation flowing again. They provide potent antioxidants known as polyphenols that zap inflammation and encourage communication between neurons, improving our ability to soak up new information according to a 2009 Tufts University study.
Sweeten your brain-boosting diet with the dark kind (at least 70% cocoa); it contains flavonoids, another class of antioxidants that some research links to brain health. Other flavonoid-rich foods include apples, red and purple grapes, red wine, onions, tea, and beer.
Eat it frequently, as part of a healthy total calorie intake. Up to half an ounce daily has also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Apples are a leading source of quercetin, an antioxidant plant chemical that keeps your mental juices flowing by protecting your brain cells.
According to researchers at Cornell University, quercetin defends your brain cells from free radical attacks which can damage the outer lining of delicate neurons and eventually lead to cognitive decline. To get the most quercetin bang for your buck, be sure to eat your apples with their skins on since that’s where you’ll find most of their quercetin.
Every cell in your body needs water to thrive, and your brain cells are no exception; in fact, about three-quarters of your brain is water. A small Ohio University study found that people whose bodies were well hydrated scored significantly better on tests of brainpower, compared with those who weren’t drinking enough. Drink it throughout the day; aim to sip 6 to 8 glasses total.
8. Red Wine
Studies have shown that people who consume moderate amounts of red wine and other types of alcohol may be at reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but it may be that there is something else that tipplers do or don’t do that affects their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
People who drink alcohol or eat healthy may be healthier in other aspects of their life, so it is difficult to disentangle whether it’s the healthy diet that protects them versus other healthy behaviors.
Blueberries may help keep your brain firing. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that the fruit’s wealth of anthocyanins — the antioxidants that create the blue hue — foster neuron-to-neuron communication in the brain, which may help delay memory loss.
Almonds may help your body fight inflammation in ways that can boost mood and slow the mental decline that comes with age, as well as raise levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with fewer down moods and less depression.
11. Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Although both are high in fat, peanuts and peanut butter tend to be a source of healthy fats. And they are also packed with vitamin E. Both foods may help keep the brain healthy and functioning properly.
Avocados are a source of monounsaturated fats, omega 3, and omega 6 fatty acids. These increase blood flow to the brain, lower cholesterol, and aid in the absorption of antioxidants. Avocados also come with many antioxidants of their own, including vitamin E, which protect the body and the brain from free radical damage. They are also a good source of potassium and vitamin K — both protect the brain from the risk of stroke.
Many women can experience a loss of mental sharpness as they get into middle age, but ginger has been shown to help keep that from happening. Another study on postmenopausal women showed ginger boosting memory skills and ability to focus.
Like beans, legumes, and whole grains, quinoa is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber to balance blood sugar while providing the essential glucose the brain craves. Quinoa is also a good source for iron to keep the blood oxygenated and B vitamins to balance mood and protect blood vessels. It is also gluten free for those with sensitivities to this protein. And, like most seeds, grains, and nuts, contains phytic acid. Quinoa also contains saponins; it should be soaked overnight before cooked.
15. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
Kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin E and folate. For example, one cup of raw spinach has 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E, and 1/2 a cup of cooked spinach has 25% of your daily intake.
Exactly how folate may protect the brain is unclear, but it may be by lowering levels of an amino acid known as homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may trigger the death of nerve cells in the brain, but folic acid helps break down homocysteine levels. High homocysteine levels have also been linked to an increased risk for heart disease.