The brain is the most important organ we have, as it controls everything going on in the body. It uses about 20% of the body’s energy, so it needs lots of good fuel in order to function at it’s best. So, what is the best food for the brain?
You are what you eat, or as Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1826, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are].
Also called brainberris, blueberries are one of the best antioxidants you can eat. Antioxidants protect your cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that damage the cells. Blueberries have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all fruits and vegetables.
Studies conducted on mice have shown that eating blueberries generated significant improvement in learning and memory and improved the performance of aged animals in spatial working memory tasks.
Avocados are a source of monounsaturated fats that help keep a healthy blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of cognitive decline. A study conducted in 2012 concluded that monounsaturated fatty acids help protect astrocytes, which provide support to the information-carrying nerves. The monounsaturated fats improved the brain’s ability to control muscles in animals with impaired astrocyte function.
Vitamin A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, so combining them with the fats in the avocado will ease the absorption process. So besides being itself very nutritious, avocado can also increase the value of other plants you eat.
It is recommended to add 1/4 up to 1/2 of an avocado to your daily diet.
Eggs are an awesome brain food. It’s enough to think that nature puts there everything needed to form and sustain through the initial phase a new life, and you get the picture.
Eggs are a great source for many nutrients, including choline, lutein, folate, vitamins B6 and B12.
According to the Egg Nutrition Center “Choline plays a critical role in brain development and health during fetal development and throughout the lifespan. In utero, choline helps the baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly. Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that our bodies can’t produce it in sufficient amounts so we have to get it in our diets.”
Lutein is very important for eye health, but it has been linked to better cognitive function in older adults.
Deficiency of Vitamins B6 and B12 has been linked to depression, while their effects have been linked to a slowdown in the mental decline progression in elderly people.
Folate deficiency is associated with depression and dementia. According to neurologist E. H. Reynolds, “Folates are important in the nervous system at all ages and there is growing evidence of their involvement in the aging brain, especially in mood and cognitive function.”
Besides being a low-calorie source of fiber, broccoli is also high in vitamin K, a vitamin essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat densely packed into the human brain. It also has an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect, which may further help protect against brain damage, and packs a high amount of vitamin C.
5. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao, which in turn contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant very important for the brain health and vascular system. According to a study by Astrid Nehlig, cocoa flavonoids may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning, and they may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.
A 2018 study indicates dark chocolate has brain-boosting qualities. They used EEG scans to determine the effect of dark chocolate, and concluded that “this superfood of 70% cacao (organic cocoa beans from Tanzania) enhances neuroplasticity for behavioral and brain health benefits”.
6. Oily fish
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, that help build cell membranes, including the brain cells. Some studies indicate omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the symptoms of ADHD, may help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and even improve mental skills like thinking, remembering and learning.
More than half of the brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind, so you can understand the importance of having omega-3 fats in your diet.
Good sources of omega-3 fats are: organic deep water salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, herring.
7. Dark leafy greens
I would mention here Kale, spinach, Swiss chard. They are a great source of vitamin E, a vitamin that is linked to improved mitochondrial function and overall neurological performance.
These are best consumed raw, in salads or smoothies, but can also be boiled. I love eating some spinach with two sunny side up eggs.
8. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamin E. All were mentioned above, so I will not insist on their benefits for your brain and body.
The nuts and seeds I usually consume are walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of Zinc, Magnesium, Copper, and Iron, all having an important role for the brain.
Curcumin, the main active ingredient in Turmeric, has many benefits for the body, but I will only mention here the ones related to our topic, the brain:
– it boosts BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor)
– seems to be helpful in prevention and even treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease
– helps fight Depression
– reduces inflammation and helps boost antioxidant levels
I talked about turmeric in this post, in case you want to read more about its benefits.
Last but certainly not least is water. Your brain and body are about 75% water. Water is an essential building block for your brain. A 2% – 4% decrease in water intake is enough to affect normal brain functioning, causing headaches, delayed reactions, mood swings and more, according to this study.
The brain needs specific nutrients in order to function properly and be healthy. You can support it and boost your alertness, focus, memory, and mood by including these foods in your diet. Now you know what is the best food for the brain so it is time to use this knowledge! Plan now to eat at least one every day for a week, don’t postpone this.
Here’s a simple smoothie recipe your brain will be very happy about: mix water, blueberries (and other berries if you have), some dark green leafy veggies, half an avocado, and some coconut oil.