You know that eating the right foods can lower your blood pressure, help you lose weight, and decrease your risk for certain cancers. But did you know that what you eat can also boost your brain functioning? Maybe you have an important meeting or big test coming up and you need your mind to perform at its best. Eating certain foods can help sharpen your memory, enhance your attention span, and maintain a healthy brain throughout the day and the rest of your life.
Want to fuel your brain as well as your body? Read on to learn which foods and drinks are best for your grey matter.
Essential for optimal brain function, omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fatty fish. Seafood such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, and albacore tuna are packed with these powerful nutrients. Brain cell membranes contain DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid. DHA is necessary for communication between the brain cells. Research has shown that a diet that includes fish three times a week drastically lowers the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. So aim to eat fish at least twice a week and you’ll have a healthy, happy brain.
Equally important is eating plenty of vegetables - especially leafy greens and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These foods are full of vitamin C, other powerful antioxidants, and carotenoids - a plant compound known to enhance brain functioning.
Antioxidants are important for your brain because they protect it from the damage of free radicals (waste created by cells when they make energy). Since your brain uses so much energy each day, it is particularly susceptible to damage caused by free radicals. Grab a handful of veggies and fight off the free radicals!
Vitamin E is another antioxidant that works to protect the health and function of your brain. Nuts, seeds, and avocados are all great sources of vitamin E. In your daily diet, include an ounce of walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seed, peanut butter, or any other kind of nut or seed. Since avocados are high in fat, eat no more than a quarter to a half a day.
Known as one of nature’s super foods, berries contain powerful antioxidants to protect your brain and build healthy brain cell communication. All berries are good for you, but blueberries seem to be the best. Try to eat a cup of berries each day.
You may be happy to hear that dark chocolate is good for something other than satisfying your sweet tooth. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, another powerful antioxidant linked to brain health. Besides flavonoids, chocolate also contains natural stimulants and caffeine, which work to enhance mental focus and concentration.
Other foods rich in flavonoids include grapes, apples, and onions. Eat these types of foods each day for optimal brain health.
Foods rich in whole grains are great for the health of your heart. If your heart is healthy, it can pump adequate amounts of blood to every organ in your body, including your brain. Whole grains also work to stabilize your blood sugar (glucose) levels to give you energy. Since glucose is the brain’s primary source of energy, it’s needed for concentration and brain health. Including whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-grain breads in your diet and you’ll reap multiple benefits!
All cells, including brain cells, need water to function. And well-hydrated brain functions better than one dehydrated. Hence the need to drink six to eight glasses of water a day.
Drinking alcohol in moderation has also been found beneficial for the health of your brain. This may be due to the benefits alcohol provides for blood vessels. Just watch your intake and don’t drink more than one glass a day.
Just like alcohol, too much coffee isn’t good for you. But everyone knows that in moderate amounts, caffeine has the ability to improve your attention span, memory, and other brain abilities. Limit your caffeinated coffee or tea intake to three to four eight-ounce cups a day.