5 Healthy Foods that Give Your Brain a Boost

The brain is the most vital organ in the body. As the center of the nervous system, it coordinates all the functions of the body and controls vital organs. It also requires a lot of energy to function, using about 20% of the body’s calories to maintain concentration and control other activities. In addition to energy, your brain needs certain nutrients to protect itself from mitochondrial DNA mutations and oxidative stress, both of which contribute to aging. These nutrients are found in healthy foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish.

Every organ in the body relies on good blood circulation, especially the heart and brain. Poor blood circulation creates a lot of problems for your cells, including your brain cells. Therefore, a steady, ample supply of oxygen and blood flow is critical for optimal brain health. Regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, so does eating the right foods. Eating a diet rich in brain-boosting nutrients can improve your memory and significantly reduce your chances of developing neurological disorders at a later age. 

Here are 5 brain foods that you should endeavor to include in your diet.

1. Fatty Fish

Because a large part of the brain is made of fat, fatty acids like omega-3s are vital to brain health. Omega-3s improve the structure of neurons (brain cells) by helping to build membranes around them. This nutrient plays an important role in improving your mood, sharpening your memory, and protecting your brain against cognitive decline. A recent study discovered an increased blood flow in the brain of people with high levels of omega-3s. The study also found a link between high omega-3 levels and improved thinking abilities and enhanced cognition. Fatty fishes like salmon, herring, albacore, and tuna are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Berries

Phytonutrients found in berries are known to benefit the brain in several ways. For example, antioxidants in blueberries may enhance the parts of your brain that influence intelligence and memory. By improving brain function, berries can help fight the natural decline that comes with aging. They also protect your brain from oxidative stress and neutralize advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) which have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases. 

Additionally, berries can alter the pathways responsible for inflammation, nerve cell transmission, cell survival, and nerve cell flexibility. The neuroprotective abilities of berries are linked to their phytochemical contents such as quercetin, anthocyanin, and catechin.

3. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants which are great for brain health. They contain high amounts of Vitamin E, an antioxidant found in most plant foods and known to protect brain cells from free radicals that cause oxidative stress. Vitamin E may also support brain health in older adults as it fights oxidative stress. Frequent intake of nuts and seeds has also been found to enhance brainwave frequencies linked with healing, learning, and cognition. Some nuts and seeds that contain brain-boosting nutrients are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, flaxseeds,  sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

4. Leafy Greens

Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and collards are rich in brain-boosting nutrients like lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin K and folate. Lutein and beta-carotene perform the role of an antioxidant, hence their neuroprotective effects. Vitamin K has been shown to increase memory and aid in the production of fat inside brain cells. Folate is required for normal nervous system function at every stage of life and its deficiency is linked with neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and cognitive decline. 

5. Whole Grains

Your brain uses a lot of energy to perform daily tasks. Hence, it requires a steady supply of energy through the bloodstream to keep you mentally alert throughout the day. The body’s preferred form of fuel is glucose derived from foods that contain carbohydrates. Whole grains are a healthy source of carbs because they are low GI (glycemic index) foods. This means they slowly release energy into your bloodstream without spiking your blood sugar. Eating healthy whole grains like brown rice, pasta, granary bread, and barley provides your brain with energy. Also, whole grains such as oats and quinoa are rich sources of B vitamins that help preserve your memory by reducing inflammation in your brain.  

The Bottom Line

Your nutritional choices play a critical role in your brain health. Certain foods can maintain or aid the health of your brain. These foods contain nutrients and phytochemicals that enhance blood circulation, prevent blood clots, and fight oxidative stress. Want to improve your ability to focus while lowering the risk of mental decline? Include foods rich in healthy fats, phytonutrients, vitamin E, and healthy carbs in your diet. Remember, the first layer of protection against neurodegenerative illness later in life is a brain-healthy diet.