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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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