Our brains are intricate organs requiring a diverse range of nutrients to function efficiently. Just as a car won’t perform well without the right fuel, our minds cannot thrive without the proper nutrients. As the brain is the control center responsible for our every action and our mental and emotional well-being, it’s imperative that we give it the best quality fuel so we can live our best life.
The brain is a voracious energy consumer, using up approximately 20% of the body’s total energy. To meet this high demand, it relies heavily on a steady supply of glucose and a number of other essential nutrients.
We know a balanced diet is necessary for our health, but what should it include for optimal brain health?
This article spills the beans on foods that help our brains function at their best. We recommend including them in your diet for improved brain function.
Improve Your Brain Power With Oily Fish
Oily fish is one of the top foods on the list for boosting brain power, primarily because of its omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of this include salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, trout, and herring. These omega-3 fatty acids have several vital functions in the brain:
- Preserving and strengthening brain cell membranes.
- They improve fetal brain development.
- Preventing cognitive decline.
- Improving memory
- They can improve symptoms of some mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Fatty fish like salmon are high in vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12, which perform similar functions in the brain as the omega-3 fatty acids.
Enhance Your Brain Health With Leafy Greens
Cruciferous vegetables are excellent sources of low-calorie dietary fiber, but they also benefit the brain. Leafy greens like broccoli are rich in antioxidants, vitamins K and C, and flavonoids. These nutrients can improve memory and help prevent neurodegenerative diseases. Other cruciferous vegetables include kale, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and turnips.
Get That Brain-Berry Boost
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, and mulberries are rich in antioxidants such as catechin, caffeic acid, anthocyanin, and quercetin. They benefit the brain in the following ways:
- Fostering better communication between brain cells
- Improving the connection between brain cells, which enhances memory and learning
- Reducing inflammation
- Delaying or preventing age-related cognitive decline
Get Smarter With Seeds And Nuts
Many seeds and nuts contain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful protector against oxidative stress from free radicals. Seeds and nuts richest in vitamin E include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds.
As we age, our brain becomes more vulnerable to oxidative stress, a prime culprit responsible for cognitive decline. Increased vitamin E can delay this decline, promote healthy aging, and help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
Capitalize on Caffeine
In 2014, the Journal of Nutrition released the results of a study that found a correlation between higher coffee and tea intake and high scores on cognitive function tests. Caffeine may also improve memory, but be sure to only drink it in moderation!
Lighten Up With Dark Chocolate
The fact that dark chocolate is a healthy brain food is great news for many chocaholics. It is jampacked with brain food, including antioxidants, flavonoids, and caffeine. Flavonoids congregate in the sections of the brain that control learning and memory. Research suggests that they delay age-related cognitive decline and improve memory. Dark chocolate has proved to be a significant mood booster.
Indulge in Eggcellent Eggs
Eggs have high levels of B vitamins and choline. Choline is excellent for improving mood and fostering proper cognitive development and function. B vitamins can slow the mental decline in patients who have Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, reduce the risk of depression, and help regulate the brain’s sugar levels.
Harness The Goodness of Whole Grains
Whole grains, with their rich vitamin E content, help facilitate overall brain function. These fiber-rich, low-glycemic carbohydrates release sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream slowly, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar. This allows the brain to remain consistently focused and functioning at its best throughout the day. Good sources of whole-grain vitamin E include quinoa, oats, whole-grain bread, brown rice, and barley.
Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, act as the brain’s support team, facilitating various cognitive functions. B vitamins, for example, are crucial for energy metabolism and neurotransmitter production. A deficiency in B vitamins can lead to symptoms such as brain fog and mood disturbances.
Foods rich in B vitamins include eggs, yogurt, legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, salmon, leafy greens, and sunflower seeds.
Similarly, minerals like magnesium, selenium, iron, and zinc play essential roles in neurotransmission and brain signaling. A balanced diet with a high content of whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds can help you get an adequate supply of these micronutrients.
The Gut-Brain Axis
Millions of nerves connect your gut and brain, most significantly the vagus nerve. The gut microbiome, a diverse community of bacteria residing in our intestines, has a profound effect on brain function and emotional well-being.
Probiotics, sourced from foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi, can promote a healthy gut microbiome, potentially boosting your mood and minimizing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Prebiotic foods, found in garlic, onions, and asparagus, nourish beneficial gut bacteria, further supporting the gut-brain axis.
Practical Steps For Nourishing The Mind
It’s impossible to list the endless number of brain-nourishing foods, but following these tips will help keep your brain healthy and functioning at its best. However, you need a few other strategies to nourish your mind that extend beyond food groups.
While exercise is an important part of looking after your brain, you need to ensure that you spend time relaxing and unwinding and doing hobbies that you enjoy. You should also surround yourself with people you feel a deep connection to and focus on forming strong bonds with romantic partners. Doing all of this will not only feed your brain, but it will feed your soul too.
By nourishing the mind in every way, you can improve your mental health and promote longevity. In doing so, you’ll feel healthier, happier, and more invigorated.
Final Food For Thought
Nourishing your mind through proper nutrition is not a fad. It’s a lifelong commitment to your mental and emotional well-being. Just as we carefully select the ingredients for a favorite recipe, we should thoughtfully choose the foods that fuel our brains and nurture our souls.
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