Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.
But, you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep, and exercise, you may just rival Einstein in no time. Here are 12 ways simple foods coming out of the kitchen can make you smarter.
The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline. Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E. Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels. Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.
2) Essential Fatty Acids
Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory. The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them in our diet. Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.
Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package. When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.
Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.
5) Vitamins: B vitamins / Folic Acid / Iron
Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid, and iron are kale, chard, spinach, and other dark leafy greens. B6, B12, and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke. Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group. Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils, and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span. To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!
Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus. Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory. Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.
While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices. Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat. Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter, and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.
Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory. Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form. Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.
9) Dark chocolate
When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.
10) Gingko biloba
This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture, and is best known for its memory boosting brawn. It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply, and removing free radicals. However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.
11) Green and black tea
Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients. Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week vs. black tea which only lasts the day.
12) Sage / Rosemary
Both of these power herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity and alleviate mental fatigue in studies. Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.
When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!
Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? 10 Ways Improve Your Memory & Boost BrainpowerFeatured photo credit: sk8geekvia Flickr, Silhouette of Offshore Jack Up Rig in The Middle of The Sea at Sunset Time via Shutterstock