Our brain is the most powerful and important organ in our entire body. Without it, nothing else functions which is why it is important to take good care of it. Part of brain health is consuming foods that help keep it running at an optimal pace.
A few general things to look for when incorporating food for your brain include meals high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, as well as lipids, carbohydrates and finding a good water/sodium balance.
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are important for brain health because they protect the enzymes, fats and vitamins inside your body, including your brain. Antioxidants have been shown to counteract free radicals, oxidative stress and reverse signs of aging. (Sign us up!) Antioxidants also work as anti-inflammatories that keep immune cells in check preventing chronic pain and inability to heal quickly due to inflammation.
If you want to up your antioxidant intake be sure to stock up on fruits and vegetables—especially dark colored berries such a blueberries. You can also spice up your life and add antioxidants through spices. Turmeric is particularly effective fighting inflammation due to its high levels of curcumin.
Lipids are great for keeping the healthy fats your brain needs to function at proper levels. Your brain is the fattiest organ in your body (about 60% fat) so it only makes sense that consuming healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is good for it. Fatty acids help fight memory loss and depression as well as improve sleep quality and vision.
Good sources of fatty and amino acids come from salmon, sardines, nuts, seeds, beans and other various meats.
It takes a lot to power your brain which is where carbohydrates come in as an important component to your diet for brain health. Carbohydrates provide energy through their high nutrient content that keeps us functioning all day, every day.
As you go about adding carbohydrates to your diet for brain power, make sure you look mostly at complex carbohydrates. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are going to be your best sources of energy and nutrients when it comes to carbohydrates.
Finally, make sure you pay attention to how much salt and water you consume in a day. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 1500mg of sodium per day, but most of us probably consume way more of that due to processed foods. Getting enough water is important because your brain is about 73% water. Regular hydration produces cognitive benefits such as alertness, energy, memory function, improved circulation and visual vigilance.
Our Top 10 Foods for Brain Health and Function
1. Blueberries provide necessary anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and because of this they can help reduce brain aging and neurodegenerative disease.
2. Eggs supply your brain with B vitamins and a nutrient called choline. These help slow cognitive decline as well as help manage depression and dementia. Choline is especially great for regulating mood and memory.
3. Fatty fish such as trout, salmon and sardines provide your brain the omega-3 fatty acids it needs. This helps prevent learning problems and depression.
4. Fruit such as oranges, guava, kiwi, and strawberries contain high amounts of vitamin C that help prevent brain cell damage and can potentially prevent Alzheimer’s.
5. Leafy greens like broccoli, collards, spinach and kale provide vitamin K, lutein, folate and beta carotene that help improve the formation of fat inside brain cells which has been linked to better memory retention.
6. Nuts are another source of the healthy fats that brains need to function properly. The nutrients in nuts have been proven to improve cognition, sharpen your memory and slow down mental decline.
7. Pumpkin seeds provide antioxidants along with zinc, magnesium, copper and iron that help with nerve signaling, learning, memory and brain fog prevention.
8. Coffee/tea are a great source of caffeine which in turn improves alertness and function as well as increasing neurotransmitter activity.
9. Turmeric is a spice that has the ability to enter the brain directly through the blood stream. It can help improve memory and lessen depression symptoms.
10. Whole grains including bread, pasta, brown rice, and barley help preserve brain function and neurodegeneration.