The human brain is amazing, it can do so much, and yet, it is very vulnerable to poor health and premature deterioration. Among the many factors that can cause this, do you know that the foods you eat significantly affect brain health?
Yes, what goes into your gut will be converted into nutrients needed by the brain to function properly. Are you eating with consideration for your brain’s health? Instead of processed and unnatural foods, stock up on real superfoods that can improve overall brain health.
Like other parts of your body, the brain needs specific sets of nutrients to stay sharp, active, and free from cognitive decline. A good percentage of the human brain is composed of DHA, a healthy type of fat, so it is important to keep your brain nourished with omega-3 fatty acid-rich superfood to maintain DHA levels at an optimum. To fight against oxidative stress that causes premature brain aging, antioxidant-rich foods should also be a staple brain food.
So here’s a roundup of brain-boosting superfoods for a more active and healthier brain:
Blueberries – with a chockfull of nutrients, blueberries are labeled brain berries because it has the most concentrated variety of antioxidants found in a fruit. From phytonutrients like anthocyanidins, flavonols, resveratrol to gallic acid, all these protect the brain from neuronal damage caused by oxidative stress. These nutrients improve cognitive functions and memory too.
Salmon – there’s a reason why salmon, wild salmon, is a superfood needed for brain health. Earlier, it was mentioned that the brain is mostly composed of DHA. Enter salmon, one of the top foods with the richest omega-3 content, keeping memory sharp and eliminating brain fog.
Turmeric – possibly the most popular spice even in ancient history, turmeric contains curcumin, a compound giving this spice its bright yellow color and is a very potent anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin holds the key to improved memory, brain development, and protection against neurological disorders.
Walnuts – walnuts contain powerful nutrients necessary for brain health: omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. A plant-based alternative source of omega-3 fatty acids, it has shown to stop the signs of brain aging in an animal trial. Antioxidants protect nerve cells from oxidative stress. In walnuts, it is believed that these two nutrients create a synergy that further increase brain power. To boot, walnuts contain phytosterols, melatonin, folate, and vitamin E, neuroprotective nutrients that bring about a host of brain benefits.
Green leafy vegetables – including broccoli, celery, cabbage, spinach, kale, lettuce, etc. Each of these nutritious leafy vegetables is included in this list because it contains specific nutrients, nourishing your brain and keeping it from degeneration. Cabbage contains L-glutamine and anthocyanins for sharper concentration. Broccoli is rich in choline, keeping memory sharp and preventing dementia and memory loss. Spinach may have given Popeye those bulging muscles, but it is its rich vitamin K content that slows down the brain’s cognitive decline as supported by recent studies.
Sea vegetables – there is a reason why citizens from Okinawa, Japan live to be in their hundreds with very low prevalence of Alzheimer’s, and sea vegetables is one of the keys. Think nori, kelp, agar, spirulina, arame, etc. and you have a superfood packed with vitamins for optimal brain functioning and improvement. For example, nori is abundant in vitamin B12, choline, and taurine. Inositol is found in most of these sea vegetables, a compound to promote better communication between brain cells.
Egg yolk – coming in last, but not the least, egg yolk is a nutritional powerhouse that promotes brain health. Aside from its rich protein content, egg yolk has concentrated choline, an awesome compound that boosts acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter responsible for concentration, memory, neuron growth, and mood. There’s no need to steer clear of egg yolk for fear of high cholesterol levels either, because new studies have proved that this isn’t the case. In fact, it raises HDL, the good cholesterol, and dissolves LDL, the bad cholesterol.
Tip: If it’s not natural food, stop consuming it as it can take a toll on brain health. Exercise is also essential to the brain as it improves learning, focus, concentration, memory, and even mood. As you exercise, brain-derived neurotropic factor is released, helping your brain become elastic and more active.
Of the numerous steps to promote a healthier brain, relaxing and staying away from stress may be the hardest. Even if this is the case, you must learn to actively relax and rid your mind of stress. Stress hormones wreak havoc in the brain, making it vulnerable to neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. To exercise your brain and eliminate stress, find more worthwhile things to do rather than just sit on the couch all day, learn a new instrument, play mind games, volunteer at the local community, or meditate.
Finally, it might sound cliché, but a healthy lifestyle always equates to a healthy brain!
My name is Sarah Burgess and I’m a health and nutrition specialist and enthusiast. I did my PhD at the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University and finished in 2015 and now I’ve been writing for Slowfoodnation since 2017. Apart from writing on blogs about health, superfood and nutrition, I love to exercise, running and pilates are two of my true addictions! I believe we create our own luck and everyone have the potential to reach true potential and be the best version of ourselves.