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Want To Boost Brain Power? Try Out These 10 Foods

Want To Boost Brain Power? Try Out These 10 Foods

Brain power can be boosted not just by brain training and physical exercise, but also by choosing our diets carefully and taking into account the findings of modern scientific research.  With an ever increasing life expectancy, we have an interest in healthy eating that is reaching epic proportions. And we now expect much more from our food than ever before.  Food is not just fuel to get us through the day.  All calories are not created equal.  We want our food to enhance our physical and mental activity, as well as our moods.  We want our food to contain cancer fighting agents and prevent cognitive decline.  We want our food to stimulate the brain growth of neonates and the immune systems of our newborns.

What most people don’t realize is that you can get all your essential nutrients from the food that you are consuming on an every day basis. And while there are many marketing experts that will try to sell you the extracted ingredients at high costs in pill format, most of the vitamins and minerals that pack the best brain punch can be found in their purest forms at your local grocery shop. This list below will get you started on a diet that is jam packed full of brain food to raise your IQ and maintain a very high standard of brain fitness. And of course, while you still need to get your physical exercise, your mental workouts, and your good night’s sleep, these foods will provide your body with the fuel needed to keep your brain running on the most efficient fuel.

1. Celery

Scientists at the University of Illinois found that a diet rich in a plant compound called luteolin reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits by directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain (Jang, Dilger, Johnson, 2010). Celery is one food that is very high in luteolin.  Other vegetables such as peppers and carrots also contain high levels of luteolin. So if you want to keep your memory in tip top shape, eat plenty of celery, peppers and carrots.

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2. Walnuts

We hear a lot about the Omega-3s these days and indeed there is a large body of scientific evidence supporting that these fatty acids are essential for healthy brain activity.  Seniors who have high levels of Omega-3 in their blood score higher on cognitive ability tests and on other tests of memory (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008).  Walnuts provide a very strong source of Omega-3.  While salmon actually appears to be a richer source of Omega-3, it is not likely that people will eat salmon every single day. Walnuts, on the other hand, can be eaten as a snack or put into cereals and salads with reckless abandon.  Other oily cold water fish such as mackerel, herring, sardines and trout are also full of the Omega-3 fatty acids so aim to include these as much as three times per week for maximal brain benefits.

3. Red meat

Well we have probably all heard that you shouldn’t eat too much red meat these days because over eating it can cause damage to the colon. However, when it comes down to the ever important vitamin B12, red meat is the strongest provider.  In fact, a B12 deficiency will cause nerve and brain damage!  So, while we don’t recommend that you eat red meat every day, we do recommend that you eat it on a weekly basis. There are B12 supplements and alternatives for those of us that don’t eat red meat, but unfortunately none of them are as rich a source of this vitamin as red meat. So while you can eat leafy greens and take vitamin supplements for your B12, you will need to eat vast amounts of them to get the same amount of B12 that you would get from red meat.

4.  Blueberries

The Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (2012) states that a diet rich in blueberries is associated with faster learning, sharper thinking and improved memory retention.  Perhaps not surprisingly, strawberries, blackberries and other berries show similar benefits.

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5. Whole grains

We all need sugar to fuel our brains and our bodies.  However, the slow release sugar found in whole grains such as barley and bulgur provide longer lasting energy being supplied to the brain.  Remember that all sugar is not created equal.  If you want the good sugars that we need for the most efficient brain functioning, we need to move away from the fizzy drinks, cheap breads and cakes and stick with the whole grains. Indeed, a word of caution is necessary here; eating cheap breads, cakes and fizzy drinks instead of the healthy whole grains for your sugars, can actually reduce your IQ! But the great news is that you don’t have to be creative to get your whole grains in.  You can build whole grains into many different meals at any time of day.  So whether you want to find some tasty toppings for your oatmeal or bake your pizza base from scratch, here are some great recipes.

6. Chickpeas

Chickpeas have the combined advantage of complex carbohydrate to give you the energy you need plus protein which keeps you alert. Protein, contains high levels of amino acids, such as tyrosine, which in turn causes neurons to produce very important neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine.  These are associated with mental alertness which is an essential part of learning.  Chickpeas are also brimming with magnesium which is thought to play an important role in metabolizing energy that enables brain cell receptors to speed up the transmission of messages (i.e., quicker thinking and faster acting brains). Finally, scientists also report that foods high in magnesium also help to relax blood vessels which allows more blood to flow to the brain.  All in all, this is fantastic news for hummus lovers.  You should also try out these delicious spicy chickpea patties.

7. Dark chocolate

One new study published in Hypertension (2013) showed that consuming dark chocolate every day may improve thinking skills in adults with mild cognitive impairment.  In this study, older adults were enlisted to take part in research where they were asked to consume either low, moderate of high amounts of flavanols in a cocoa based beverage every day for eight weeks. The scientists found that there was a link between higher amounts of flavanols and improvements in tests of cognitive function.  Put simply, the higher the concentration of flavanols, the better people did on the tests of cognitive functioning.  The participants who consumed highest amounts of flavanols were able to complete tests more quickly and recall more information. One word of caution to readers is that this particular study was funded by Mars so there is a potential conflict of interest here. However, the finding that flavanols are good for you is not exactly news. Flananols are widely known to reduce blood pressure and it may be that their effect on increasing blood flow is having a secondary effect on brain functioning.  Flavanols are also found in red wine, grapes, apples and tea, if for any reason you do not wish to consume vast quantities of dark chocolate.

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8. Almonds

Almonds are very high in vitamin E which is thought to protect the brain from age related damage and to improve learning and memory skills. Almonds also contain riboflavin and L-carnitrine which are widely accepted as nutrients that boost brain activity.

9. Broccoli

Broccoli contains Vitamin K which strengthens cognitive abilities and Choline which has been found to improve memory.  Broccoli also contains folic acid which can help to ward of Alzheimer’s disease.  Some studies also suggest that a lack of folic acid can lead to depression so broccoli may be good for our brains on many levels, not strictly in terms of doing well on IQ or memory tests.  If you’re not that into broccoli on its own, check out this site for a delicious broccoli, cannellini bean and cheddar soup.

10. Avocado

In 1994, Miller found that the workings of the human brain depends on communication between our brain’s 100 billion neurons.  The axon of each neuron is coated in a type of insulation known as myelin.  When myelin is thicker, the transmission of impulses between neurons is faster. This is turn is linked to higher intelligence. Avocados are known to have a high fat content and yet this is fat that is good for our brains. Avocados are rich in a fatty acid called “oleic acid” which helps build myelin sheathes found in the white matter in the brain. Neurons without myelin process information at slower speeds. So while we know that correlation is not the same as causation, eating avocados does appear to be a helpful method for building up our myelin.  Other sources of oleic acid include olives, almonds and pecans.

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A few recipes using these and other good brain foods can be found here.

Now go forth, eat well and boost that brain power!

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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