“Food for thought” usually refers to ideas or interesting tidbits of information that your mind can metaphorically “feed” on. However, this phrase has literal value as well. There are certain foods that boost your brainpower and enhance cognitive function. Here are 10 brain-boosting foods you should be eating:

1. Blueberries

Referred to as “brainberries” by Dr. Steven Pratt, author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life, blueberries are perhaps one of the most beneficial brain foods. Rich in antioxidants, they protect your brain from damaging oxidative stress caused by accumulated free radicals in the body. In the industrial world that we live in, the amounts of these harmful species are increasing in our bodies to levels that actually harm cells and neurons, damage which is prevented by antioxidants. Blueberries enhance memory and improve learning abilities. Studies suggest they may even reduce age-related decline and prevent the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A cup a day in any form will do the trick.

2. Avocados

The monounsaturated fats in avocados promote blood flow and reduce blood pressure, which benefits all organs, including the brain. High in calories, a quarter to a half an avocado a day is sufficient.

3. Wild salmon

Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which maintain brain cell health and act as anti-inflammatories. Our bodies are unable to manufacture the amounts of fatty acids that we need, so an external source is required. The fatty acids in salmon support heart, brain and eye health throughout life, and fight age-related cognitive disorders. Farmed salmon doesn’t contain the same levels of fatty acids as ocean fish, so if given the choice, wild salmon is better. A four ounce serving two to three times a week is recommended.

4. Olive oil

Olive oil is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants, which, as discussed above, protects the brain against oxidative stress. It has also been linked to improved learning and memory. One to two tablespoons a day sprinkled on salads or use for cooking is a good amount.

5. Flax seeds

Flax seeds are rich in fatty-acids, which are essential to brain health, enhancing memory and reducing age-related decline. A tablespoon or two a day will do it, added in smoothies or in a salad.

6. Broccoli

Broccoli is an excellent source of choline, which has been known to improve memory and decrease age-related mental decline. It is also rich in vitamin K, which can increase the speed of brain functions and improve memory abilities. Broccoli can prevent against the harmful oxidative distress discussed above. Two cups about four to five times a week is optimum for brain health.

7. Eggs

Egg yolks are one of the best sources of choline, which, as discussed before, can improve memory and reduce age-related decline. It can also improve communication between brain cells. An egg a day is the recommended amount.

8. Nuts

Containing high levels of healthy fats, nuts can increase mental clarity, memory and have been shown to reverse brain aging in older rats. They contain high levels of vitamin E, which prevents cognitive decline. Considering their brain-like shape, it’s suitable that walnuts are perhaps the best nut to eat for brain health. They can enhance mood, reduce mental decline and improve cardiac health. An ounce of nuts a day is enough to do the trick.

9. Chickpeas

Rich in magnesium, chickpeas promote faster transmission of messages between neurons. They relax the blood vessels, which promotes blood flow, and increase serotonin levels in the brain, which leads to a better mood. Start eating hummus more often and perhaps try a chickpea salad a few times a week.

10. Dark chocolate

Perhaps the tastiest of the brain boosting foods, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and protects the brain against oxidative stress from free radicals. It contains endorphins which can improve mood. An ounce a day is the recommended amount.

Featured photo credit: Jeff Kubina via flickr.com

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