Did you know that the salmon you ate for dinner and the blueberries you put into your morning oatmeal not only benefit your body but are food for your brain too?
Just like the body needs fuel to produce energy and function effectively, the brain also needs its share of nutrition to provide optimum performance. So, what are the foods that can help maintain a healthy brain?
Foods for a Healthy Brain
In recent times, there has been a considerable increase in the cases of emotional and mental disorders among both adults and children. And, various studies have shown that altering an individual’s diet may help reduce the risk of conditions like depression, anxiety and Alzheimer’s.
Many nutritionists and mental health experts recommend increasing the intake of foods rich in specific nutrients like complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
Brain foods to incorporate into your diet:
Unlike simple carbohydrates found in baked goods, processed sugar and bottled drinks, complex carbohydrates are more nutritious. These comprise more complex forms of sugar that are usually packed inside other healthy components like fiber. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are good sources of complex carbohydrates and work to release glucose slowly, thus supporting blood sugar levels and our moods.
Oxidation occurs at a cellular level and produces energy for the body and the brain. An increase in the rate of oxidation can cause oxidative stress, especially in the brain. This can be combated with foods rich in antioxidants including blueberries, spinach, kale, cherries and green tea. Antioxidants can repair damage caused by oxidative stress and may also improve mood.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
This type of polyunsaturated fatty acid is essential for converting the food we eat into energy for the body and brain. Omega-3 fatty acids also support brain health by enhancing the production of brain cells, improving memory, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and relieving the symptoms of depression. These healthy fats can be found in nuts, oily fish and eggs.
7 Top Foods/Beverages for Better Brain Health
Coffee comprises caffeine and antioxidants, both of which are good for the brain. Studies suggest that coffee can help increase alertness, improve concentration and enhance your mood.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and L-theanine, an amino acid that may help increase the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that may relieve anxiety and induce a feeling of relaxation. The polyphenols in green tea could also reduce the risk of memory-related disorders like Alzheimer’s.
A spice commonly used in Indian cuisine, turmeric contains curcumin, which can positively affect brain cells. With a very high concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric may help enhance memory, boost serotonin and dopamine to relieve the symptoms of depression and boost the growth of brain cells.
Rich in antioxidants, caffeine and flavonoids, dark chocolate might help with memory and learning. The main components of chocolate might also slow down the mental degeneration caused by age.
You may have heard that a handful of nuts a day can support heart health, but did you know that they are good for the brain too? Studies show that nuts, which contain healthy fats, vitamin E and antioxidants, may sharpen memory, improve cognitive functioning and help slow down the brain’s degeneration.
Prebiotics and probiotics:
Found abundantly in fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, yogurt and cheese, both prebiotics and probiotics are good for the bacteria that promote gut health — gut health is linked to our behavior and moods too. These foods might help reduce inflammation in the brain, induce a happy sensation and even reduce the symptoms of depression.
With fall and Halloween just around the corner, you’ll have plenty of access to pumpkin seeds that are rich in antioxidants, zinc, iron and magnesium among other nutrients. The zinc in the pumpkin seeds might improve the communication between nerve cells, magnesium may support and enhance memory and iron could improve the overall functioning of the brain.
Now that you are equipped with this information, it’s time to create a shopping list and head to your local market to load up on foods that support brain health.
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Lee, M., & Bradbury, J. (2018, September 13). Five types of food to increase your psychological well-being. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/five-types-of-food-to-increase-your-psychological-well-being-101818