The foods we consume have a major impact on our brain power and health. Studies show that while the brain only represents about 2% of our body weight, it accounts for 20% of the oxygen, and calories consumed by the body. That being said, eating nutrient-rich foods can promote healthy brain structure and help with cognitive function and memory.
Why You Should Care About Brain Health
The brain is without a doubt the most important organ in the human body. It is essentially our control center that allows us to think and feel.
Did you know that one in three cases of Alzheimer’s disease worldwide is preventable? According to Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. So why am I sharing this information? While there is no single food that can protect against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, eating a healthy well-balanced diet that includes these foods will help keep your memory as sharp as can be.
This article aims to share the scientific evidence behind the 13 best brain foods.
13 Best Brain Foods
Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fats, which may lower blood pressure and increase blood flow. Both factors are known to reduce someone’s risk of cognitive decline. Avocados also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, shown to prevent Alzheimer’s. They are also high in vitamin-k, shown to improve blood flow and decrease the risk of stroke.
Legumes are rich in vitamin b-9, which is critical for brain function. According to the Mayo Clinic, a study concluded that the diets of older adults who had lower intakes of legumes had greater cognitive decline compared to those who ate legumes more regularly. Legumes are also an excellent source of complex carbohydrates which has been shown to provide a study supply of glucose to the brain.
3. Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
These three foods are rich in calcium, vitamin-b, vitamin-c, beta-carotene, iron, fiber, and vitamin-k. All of which are known to boost brain power and improve memory, while also protecting against free radicals. They also include potassium which aids the nervous system, therefore, helps the brain and lowers the risk of experiencing cognitive decline.
Blueberries are essentially an antioxidant superfood. They contain flavonoids which is a compound that is rich in antioxidants and can help your body fight off toxins. It is known that flavonoids improve the communication between our neurons which leads to improved cognitive function such as verbal comprehension and decision making, memory, and learning. They also protect against stress and premature aging.
Mint is an excellent source of vitamin-a and vitamin-c. Vitamin-a is known to boost learning skills while also increasing brain plasticity. Vitamin-c protects against cognitive decline. A study found that even smelling peppermint may enhance memory and increase alertness. Though more research is needed, mint has shown promising effects in preventing and potentially treating Alzheimer’s disease.
Beets are high in nitrates which may help to increase blood flow to parts of the brain and thus improving cognitive function. They also contain vitamin b-9 which helps break down homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to a greater risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Turmeric contains curcumin, which is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant compound linked to positive effects on the brain. Research shows that those who took curcumin twice a day displayed a 28% improvement in memory tests throughout the study compared to those who received the placebo. These participants also showed lower levels of beta-amyloid and tau in the hypothalamus and amygdala, both of which play a huge factor in emotion and memory.
8. Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds contain a mix of b vitamins, omega fatty acids, and protein. These seeds are especially rich in zinc, which is used in the brain’s hippocampus to improve memory. They also contain tryptophan which helps the brain produce serotonin. In turn, it helps with anxiety, depression and boosting overall mood. Magnesium is another compound found in these seeds essential for good memory and increasing our learning capacity.
9. Walnuts and Almonds
Walnuts and almonds are great sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and also contain vitamin b-6 and vitamin-e. It has been found that eating these nuts regularly strengthens brainwave frequencies associated with healing, learning, cognition, memory, and other brain functions.
Quinoa is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which balances blood sugar while only providing the essential glucose the brain craves. Also, quinoa contains iron which keeps our oxygen-carrying red blood cells healthy, therefore supporting brain health.
11. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which the body uses for energy and thus leaving glucose for the brain. Furthermore, coconut oil acts as an anti-inflammatory and is also known to have a positive effect on blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. All of which benefit heart circulation, thus benefit the brain.
There is a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in salmon which are known to improve memory and concentration. A UCLA study found eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative diseases. The study also observed that those who eat fatty fish such as salmon twice a week showed a 13% slower decline in memory issues for those aged 65 and older. That being said, omega-3 can help with brain function, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
Eggs are a great source of vitamin b-6, vitamin b-12, and folic acid. They are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood which reduces the risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, and stroke. In a study of 168 participants, they found those who took high doses of vitamin b-6, b-12, and folic acid for two years showed significantly less brain shrinkage compared to those who were given the placebo.
Eggs also contain choline, an essential nutrient for acetylcholine, the memory- boosting brain chemical. Studies suggest that choline has shown great effects in improving memory and cognition while reducing the risk of stroke.
The foods you consume play a key role in the health of your brain. By incorporating these 13 of the best brain power foods into your diet, you can improve cognitive function, while also reducing the risk of cognitive decline and cognitive diseases. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learning about these nutrient rich foods!