Foods to Boost Brain and Memory
The human brain makes up for only 2% of our total body weight. However, it takes up almost 20% of all the energy generated in the body. Since our brain requires so much energy, every bit of our cognitive function depends on the type of food that we eat. Our diet can affect our emotions, our ability to learn, and even our decision-making. It is only sensible therefore, to ensure that our diet is rich in what are commonly known as brain foods.
What are brain foods?
Brain foods are foods that help strengthen your brain function and enhance your cognitive abilities. These are foods are known to prevent the brain from degeneration with age; which in turn causes issues like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and poor memory retention.
Why is food important for brain function?
Like every other cell in the body, the brain cells also need glucose to power different activities. When we eat food, the blood carries the necessary glucose to the brain after the food that you eat is digested. Different foods lend different benefits to the brain and that is why a balanced, wholesome diet is important for proper brain and bodily functions.
Some of these brain-boosting foods prove to be more beneficial than the others. For instance, the structural material that is needed to maintain neurons is provided by Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Foods like turmeric on the other hand help in energy metabolism, and support cognition too.
10 best foods for the brain and memory
Here is a list of brain foods that are highly recommended:
- Whole grains:
Whole grains are great for overall good health. Without ample energy, your brain is unable to function. When your diet consists of whole grains with a low glycemic index, glucose is released into the bloodstream slowly. That way, you feel like you are mentally alert all day long because of this constant supply of energy. Choosing ‘brown’ whole grains is healthier. The best options are granary bread, pasta, whole grain cereal, and brown rice.
- Oily fish:
Our body is unable to manufacture Essential Fatty Acids that are very important for brain function. That is why the only way to obtain them is through a diet rich in these fatty acids. The most important EFAs are Omega-3 fats that are found in oily fish in abundance. This is in the form of DHA and EPA.
The best types of fish to consume to get essential fatty acids that you can consume readily include sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, trout and kippers. Individuals with low levels of DHA have been proven to be at a higher risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. EPA and DHA are also necessary to manage stress. This is because they boost the release of serotonin that keeps you in a good mood.
For vegetarians it is recommended that you consume some Omega-3 supplements to keep your brain healthier for longer. Good plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include – walnuts, soya beans, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. These fatty acids are necessary for brain function, heart health and general health.
Tiffs University in the United States has accumulated ample evidence to suggest that blueberries are extremely effective in delaying memory loss related to age. It is also proven that memory improves by snacking on blueberries regularly. This is one of the best brain boosting foods as it is available easily. It is a good idea to look for any fruit that is purple or red in color as they all contain anthocyanins that improve memory.
Tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. This can protect your brain from any free radical damage. This is the primary reason for the development of Alzheimer’s or dementia in old age. It is a good idea to cook tomatoes and add some olive oil to this. That way the absorption of these antioxidants is enhanced. Naturally, this is good food for the brain.
- B Vitamins:
There are some B vitamins, namely B12, B6 and folic acid that are the best food for the brain. These vitamins reduce the levels of homocystine in the blood stream. When the levels of homocystine in the blood increase, chances of cognitive impairment, strokes and Alzheimer’s disease increase as well.
A study conducted on a group of older patients with slight cognitive impairment showed that with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid administered for two years, the shrinkage of the brain was much lesser. The results were compared to a control group who were given a placebo.
The best sources of Vitamin B include eggs, fish, chicken and green leafy vegetables.
- Bone broth:
Bone broth is a simple food to improve memory. You can make it at home by simply boiling bones of turkey or beef to prepare a soup. When you consume this bone broth, the body is loaded with collagen. This is the building block of all the ligaments, cells, bones and of course, the brain.
A study conducted at Harvard showed that those who had developed autoimmune diseases were completely cured with regular consumption of brain broth. This brain broth contains glycine which is also very useful in improving memory and sleep.
- Dark chocolate:
Not all kinds of chocolate are foods that improve memory. Good quality dark chocolate does have several health benefits. It is rich in iron, magnesium and fiber. These components are vital for better blood vessel function. This, in turn means that the brain gets a better supply of blood improving memory and general brain function.
There are also some brain stimulants such as theobromine and caffeine that can significantly improve the function of the brain in a short span of time.
In addition to that, dark chocolate is one of the most powerful antioxidants. Cacao contains almost 15 times the amount of antioxidants you find in blueberries and close to 20 times the amount found in green tea.
For dark chocolate to have positive effects on the function of your brain, make sure that you only buy products that contain at least 70% cacao.
- Pumpkin or Sunflower seeds:
You will find a rich mix of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and proteins in Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds. This makes them excellent food for brain.
They give your brain the energy that it needs all day long and also provide tryptophan to the brain. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain. This helps elevate your mood. With constant consumption of these seeds, it is also possible to combat depression and anxiety.
Finally, you get a large amount of zinc with just a handful of these seeds. Zinc is one of the most important minerals to enhance your thinking skills and memory.
All nuts are excellent memory boosting foods. They are also great for your nervous system in general. They are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids for those who do not consume any meat.
In addition to that, they also contain Vitamin E that protects the cells of the brain from any damage caused by free radicals. Raw nuts work well but it is always better to soak these nuts overnight before eating them. This makes it easier for the body to digest them.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that the vitamin E in these nuts can significantly control cognitive decline with age. Consuming foods like green leafy vegetables, eggs, brown rice, asparagus and olives along with nuts can really keep the brain structure intact for longer.
Broccoli is one of the best foods to include in your diet to improve brain function. They are a rich source of Vitamin K. These vitamins are known to improve brainpower and cognitive function.
According to a research conducted on the relationship between broccoli and brain function, it was noted that a compound called glucosinolate plays a very important role. It is this compound that helps slow down the degeneration of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. This is needed for the proper function of the central nervous system. It also keeps your memory and brain sharp. Research shows that low levels of acetylcholine in the body can increase the chances of Alzheimer’s disease.
While a good diet plays a significant role in improving your brain function, coupling this with a good workout routine is very important. With regular exercise, it is possible to slow down mental aging. It improves cognitive function and also helps your process information easily.
While it is best to have a well rounded diet to maintain the health of your brain, you may also consider some brain boosting supplements & pills. There are several Omega 3 fatty acid supplements, for instance, that are safe to consume. However, before you pick any supplement, make sure that you consult a doctor. That way, you know that the supplement is not just effective but is also safe for you to consume.
The rule is quite simple. Any change in your lifestyle that affects the metabolism of the nerve cells is useful for your brain. This includes both your diet and exercise. In fact, the results are so great that they can be alternative, non-invasive strategies to deal with several cognitive and neurological disorders.