Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 11, 2021

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]

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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).

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

More by this author

Julia Whelan

Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist

13 Brain Healthy Foods That Keep Your Brain Sharp Naturally 17 Power Pressure Cooker Recipes for Rushed Weeknight Meals 25 Healthy Snacks for Work: Decrease Hunger and Increase Productivity How to Drink More Water Easily When It Seems Like a Major Chore

Trending in Brain Power

1 Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think 2 How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them 3 If You Don’t Know What Your Next Thought Is, You’re Not Alone 4 Latest Scientific Research Shows That Coffee Is Actually Good For Your Brain 5 15 Brain Foods That Will Super Boost Your Brain Power

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

Advertising

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

“When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

Advertising

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

Silence relieves stress and tension.

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

Advertising

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

Advertising

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next