As a society, we are learning more and more that the adage “You are what you eat” has real merit. What you eat impacts every part of your life and health, including your brain.
The human brain is an organ that uses an intense amount of fuel — approximately 20 percent of the body’s total energy. It is necessary to fuel the electrical activity that controls every action, voluntary or autonomic. In addition, the brain uses energy for what scientists call its “housekeeping” tasks, such as maintaining cell health.
Like other vital organs, the brain requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. So if your goal is to eat better, focusing on your brain is an excellent place to start. Consider five foods your brain needs to function at its peak. These foods for the brain are as follows:
Seafood offers many health benefits, including nutrients that help nourish the brain. In addition, decades of medical research prove that fish is a superfood that should be part of most people’s diets, especially oily fish such as tuna and salmon.
Oily fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can increase blood flow. That is why fish is often associated with heart health. That same benefit applies to your brain, though. To reduce your risk of cognitive decline and memory impairment, you must think in terms of prevention. By the time memory loss sets in, it is often too late.
Adding food rich in omega-3 is one way is a step in the right direction. A 2022 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that increasing the amount of omega-3 in your diet is an effective preventative strategy to avoid cognitive decline.
Seafood is also high in protein and low in fat, making it vital to your overall health. But, if you are not a seafood lover, don’t worry. You can also get omega-3 from soybeans, flaxseed, and nuts.
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Feed that Sweet Tooth With Dark Chocolate
Let the lovers of sweets rejoice! Yes, some forms of chocolate are good for your brain. Not all chocolate is created equally, though.
Dark chocolate contains higher levels of cacao, which has flavonoids that can protect the brain. Flavonoids are antioxidants, something the brain needs to help prevent oxidative stress. Put simply, antioxidants help deter the damage associated with environmental pollutants and aging.
A 2018 study published in FASEB Journal found that chocolate with at least 70 percent organic cacao is good for the brain. A word of caution, though – the benefits are only found in dark chocolate, the darker, the better, and when eaten in moderation. Chocolate still contains lots of sugar and is high in empty calories.
Wake Up With Coffee
There is a reason people drink coffee to feel more alert. The caffeine in the coffee blocks a chemical produced by the brain that makes you feel drowsy. That’s not why it made the list, though.
Research indicates that coffee also increases brain entropy, which means the ability of the organ to process information. Like dark chocolate, coffee is a rich source of antioxidants. There is evidence that drinking coffee long-term may reduce your risk of cognitive decline and Parkinson’s disease. So, go ahead and pour yourself a cup or two in the morning, knowing that your brain will thank you later.
Get Berry Healthy
Berries are one of nature’s most potent superfoods. Like most superfoods, its power centers around flavonoids and antioxidants found in the color. That’s why the deeper the color of the berry, the better. Blueberries top the list of most healthy foods of all time.
Antioxidant compounds found in fruit pigmentation, the thing that gives them color, may increase brain plasticity. The brain is a versatile organ. It can create new cells and develop neuron pathways as needed. That means if one part of your brain isn’t working right, other parts can compensate.
Berries may improve communication in the brain, reduce inflammation associated with most diseases, and reduce or slow the cognitive decline that leads to conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease. So if you decide to add just one thing from this list to your diet, berries, especially blueberries, would be a good choice.
If you are not a fan of blue fruit, strawberries, blackcurrants, and mulberries will work, too. You can put them in smoothies or enjoy them on healthy breakfast cereals for a little added punch.
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Go Nuts…And Seeds
Nuts and seeds have it all when it comes to healthy eating. They are rich sources of protein, which your body needs to build new cells. They are also good brain food. Like fish, nuts and seeds have lots of omega-3 fatty acids. They also have plenty of vitamin E, an antioxidant and essential vitamin.
Unlike some of the other foods on this list, studies show that eating nuts is something that can help you even if you already have some memory issues or cognitive decline. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging found that increasing nut intake can improve brain functioning in older adults. There is also evidence that vitamin E may reduce a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
All nuts are good for you in moderation. Some of the nuts that get top marks for vitamin E include:
- Sunflower seeds
Try adding a few to your favorite salad for some texture and flavor. Although nuts tend to be higher in calories, they also contain healthy fats. They can add a pick-me-up to your day as a morning or afternoon snack but keep the portions small.
There are plenty of foods out there that are good for your brain, but there is one more worth mentioning – whole wheat. Brown rice and other whole grain foods contain vitamin E and lots of fiber. They are also easy to add to your diet. So next time you decide to make pasta, pick up something whole-grain to get the most nutritional benefits.
Your body has many vital organs, but few are as critical as the brain. Make sure to take care of yours by eating the right foods for the brain.