Ask anybody if they are all in for eating their way to a healthier brain and a boost in mental acuity. No doubt a lot of hands would be raised in affirmation. Of course, you would then have to explain to them that this doesn't mean just pigging out indiscriminately on your smorgasbord of favorites. It actually calls for being selective in what you eat and, in most cases, in the right quantities. There are dozens of choices out there in terms of which foods are best for boosting brainpower and protecting your brain in general, and some of the choices just might surprise you in a positive way.
Common Characteristics of ‘Smart' FoodsWhat we are looking for here are foods that improve blood flow – always a good thing for brain functionality, as well as foods that are full of antioxidants (able to fight against free radicals, which can harm your brain) or have anti-inflammatory properties, as chronic inflammation has been identified as a key marker for the risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive issues as you age. Per webmd.com, though, research continues to show that you can improve your chances of keeping your brain hitting on all, or at least most, cylinders well into old age by being smart in choosing ‘smart' foods. Let's take a look at some of those brain-healthy delights.
Foods Conducive to Brain Health and Mental PerformanceFor the sake of this list, we are steering away from foods that depend heavily on caffeine content, because caffeine doesn't sit well with some folks and, besides, is more of a quick burst of energy with relatively short-lived booster effects than something more long-lasting. In alphabetical order:
- Avocados. These contain a fair amount of fat, so don't over-indulge. But please do indulge because as a monounsaturated fat, avocados can pitch in to healthy blood flow, and healthy blood flow can mean a healthy brain, per webmd.com.
- Beets. Its natural nitrates can bolster blood flow to the brain, resulting in boosted mental performance.
- Blackcurrants. Just like citrus fruits such as oranges, blackcurrants are a terrific source of vitamin C, which might not only be useful in managing stress and anxiety but also helpful in preventing or slowing brain degeneration, per bbcgoodfood.com.
- Blueberries. For sure, keep a bowl of these handy – they make a nice snack any time. They contain anthocyanins, which, according to evidence compiled at Tufts University, per bbcgoodfood.com, means that eating blueberries may be helpful in overcoming or delaying short-term memory loss.
- Dark chocolate. Got your attention now? It has an abundance of antioxidant properties and an assortment of natural stimulants that can promote focus and concentration and, by stimulating the production of endorphins, lift up moods.
- Egg yolks. These are a healthy source of choline, which, per shape.com, is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in helping you remember things like where you left the car keys. Eating protein-rich foods like eggs for breakfast can improve overall cognitive performance, according to Swiss researchers.
- Lentils. A natural for adding to soups or salads, this legume is loaded with folate, a B vitamin linked to an ability to boost brainpower, per shape.com. Folate also can help reduce levels of amino acids capable of being detrimental to brain function.
- Oats. Oats are loaded with carbs from which glucose is derived, and glucose is the primary fuel for your brain. Because whole-grain oats are broken down into carbs slowly, a bowlful of oatmeal can last a long time in adding brain function.
- Red meat. It has long had a reputation as being detrimental long-term to cardiovascular health, but the fact it is rich in iron is good because, per activebeat.com, studies have shown healthy levels of iron are able to enhance mental performance, mindful that an iron deficiency can impede the flow of oxygen through the body and brain.
- Salmon (wild-caught). Another food item on the fatty side and not to be wolfed down in large quantities, but those omega-3 essential fatty acids can really go to town in stimulating brain function. Why wild-caught vs. farm-raised salmon? The latter is more prone to contain some levels of mercury, and you don't want that.
- Sardines. Another form of fish, sardines have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to help support brain cells and neurotransmitters, per activebeat.com.
- Spinach. Actually, leafy, green vegetables in general are great brain foods, to also include the likes of broccoli and celery. While there are no known cures of dementia/Alzheimer's or effective ways of prevention, spinach has been pegged as one food able to at least slow the rate of cognitive decline. When you get to be 60 and older, this is good to know, but the time to start eating right is NOW, regardless your age.
- Turmeric. As a spice, this can be added to a wide variety of foods – a few sprinkles can bring out the taste of a meal and provide your body with health benefits. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and also boosts antioxidant levels, not only aiding your immune system but also promoting your brain's intake of oxygen, thus promoting your ability to process information, per draxe.com.
- Walnuts. Its high level of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can improve mental alertness, and the vitamin E might be able to help ward off Alzheimer's, per draxe.com. Grab a handful.