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13 Brain Healthy Foods That Keep Your Brain Sharp Naturally

13 Brain Healthy Foods That Keep Your Brain Sharp Naturally

Feeding our brain is a hot topic in the nutrition and wellness world. And it should be! Studies have shown that eating certain foods can help ward off Alzheimers and improve memory. But feeding your brain with high quality, unprocessed foods has been linked to incredible benefits that translate into a higher quality of life and increased productivity.

There are, of course, foods we are wanting to keep out of our typical day-to-day diets. Foods such as sodas, cakes and cookies that contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners have been linked to interruptions in the brain. Also, limiting processed foods that contain simple grains such as enriched flour, may have a detrimental effect on your brain power.

Instead, focusing on whole foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals have been proven to help with memory, computing power, and preventing disease. Here are some great brain healthy foods that really pack the power:

1. Walnuts

Good for both your heart and your brain, all nuts in general are good sources of healthy fats. Walnuts specifically are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of the famous Omega-3 fatty acid. In fact, a study completed in 2015 linked increased walnut consumption with improved cognitive testing scores.[1]

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2. Salmon

Fatty fishes such as salmon have gotten so much great attention related to their healthy fat content. Well here is another benefit to add to the list:

Because salmon is such an abundant source of Omega-3 fatty acids, they are a good source of decreasing blood levels of beta-amyloid. Beta-amyloid is the protein that forms the dangerous clumps in your brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease.[2]

3. Turmeric

It is now known that the neurons in our brains can continue to form new connections throughout adulthood which was once believed to be impossible. One of the main drivers in the process of building these new pathways is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

The great news is that it is likely that turmeric can increase BDNF levels leading to improved brain function and decreased risk of degenerative brain processes.[3]

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4. Blueberries

The anti-oxidative properties of berries are powerful! It has been shown that consuming at least two servings of berries each week can improve memory and prevent memory decline.

5. Tomatoes

With the composition of your brain being mostly fat, 60% to be exact, the fat soluble nutrients in tomatoes act as a powerful safeguard. Specifically known as carotenoids, these nutrients are great antioxidants that help to neutralize free radicals. This is an important process to keep your brain functioning at its highest level.[4]

6. Chia Seeds

Another great source of healthy fats, the Omega-3 fatty acids found in chia seeds are a powerful brain enhancer.[5]

Here’re the amazing benefits of chia seeds (and some refreshing recipes).

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7. Broccoli

Research suggests that consuming dark green vegetables regularly slows cognitive decline. This is likely due to these veggies being rich in brain healthy nutrients such as Vitamin A, K, folate, lutein, and fiber.

8. Apples

Studies from 2006 showed that a common compound in apples, quercetin, may protect the neurons in our brain against oxidation. It is believed that the quercetin reduces cellular death in the brain related to oxidation and inflammation of the neurons. This process may play an important role in reducing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s.[6]

9. Spinach

Again! Those leafy greens! Leafy greens are a powerhouse of brain protective nutrients and antioxidants.

10. Onions

Onions are a good natural source of folate. Folate has been shown to improve the blood flow to the brain by decreasing homocysteine levels in the body. This also may have beneficial effects for those suffering with depression.[7]

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11. Flax Seeds

Another rich source of Omega 3 and ALA! Flax seeds can help reduce blood pressure and therefor improve blood flow to the brain. This reduction of blood pressure also helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes. It’s a win, win!

12. Coffee

The caffeine in your daily cup of Joe may be doing more than wake you up. A 2014 study showed that those with higher caffeine consumption had improved test scores on mental function and had better memory recall.[8]

13. Tea

The combination of caffeine and the amino acid L-Theanine found in tea, has been shown to have powerful effects on brain function. In a 2017 study, green tea was shown to improve cognition, memory power, and reduce anxiety.[9]

The Bottom Line

There are many foods that have been shown to benefit the brain! What is most important to keep in mind is to focus on whole, real foods.

In summary and in looking at the above list, you can see that nature has powerful benefits. Eating what nature is providing us is the fastest way to feeding your brain.

Featured photo credit: Lars Blankers via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Cleveland Clinic: Food for Brain Health
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: Foods linked to better brainpower
[3] Healthline: 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin
[4] Psychology Today: Fat Brains Need… Tomatoes.
[5] Nutrition Letter: Should You Jump on the Chia Seeds Bandwagon?
[6] Medical News Today: Apples: Health benefits, facts, research
[7] Medical News Today: Health benefits and risks of onions
[8] Harvard Health Publishing: Foods linked to better brainpower
[9] Phytomedicine.: Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review.

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Julia Whelan

Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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