Your brain is the command center of your body, which makes it an essential part of all of your body’s functions. Thus, it’s vital that you take measures to keep it as healthy as possible. One way to do this is to eat nutritious foods that will keep your brain healthy. Here are nine foods that are good for your brain.
9 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain
1. Salmon and Other Fatty Fish
One food that’s great for your brain (and overall health) is salmon. This type of fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which provides the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) essential for nervous tissue growth and function (1). Our bodies are not capable of making DHA, so we must get it from the food that we eat. Salmon, as well as other fatty fish like trout and sardines, is an excellent source.
2. Green Tea
Green tea contains theanine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (in small amounts), which lowers blood pressure and regulates brain and nerve function (2). Furthermore, green tea is known to reduce anxiety and improve memory, and it contains caffeine, which stimulates wakefulness and reduces fatigue (3). Despite common beliefs, in moderate and safe amounts, caffeine carries certain health benefits.
3. Dark Chocolate
Another excellent snack that you can munch on (in moderation) to boost your brain function is dark chocolate. Delicious and packed with nutrients, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant effects that may enhance memory and slow down aging (4,5). Dark chocolate is an excellent substitute when you want something sweet and nutritious.
4. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are also great foods for your brain. They contain healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin E, which protects your cells from the effects of free radicals (6). This is important to keep cells healthy and prevent DNA damage.
5. Whole Grains
All your body’s organs are dependent on a healthy supply of blood. Your brain is no different. In fact, it receives 15-20% of the blood pumped out by your heart. So this is a good reason why to eat foods that are good for your heart. Whole grains like oatmeal and barley promote a healthy heart and may help your body circulate blood better throughout your system (7).
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, which may help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels and promote a healthy blood flow (8). There are countless ways to prepare avocados. You can even add them to your smoothies. They don’t change the flavor but add a little creaminess.
Beans, such as lentils and black beans, are foods that are good for your brain and heart health. Studies reveal that increasing the intake of beans improves heart health (9). Since your brain is highly dependent on blood flow, a healthy heart means a healthier brain.
Blueberries and other kinds of berries provide a lot of health benefits. They’re especially beneficial for your brain since they contain flavonoids — which may improve memory — and a lot of other antioxidants, which prevent inflammation and fight against free radicals. Moreover, the antioxidants from berries are found to accumulate in the brain and may help improve your brain cells’ function (10,11).
9. Green, Leafy Vegetables
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli are full of nutrients like vitamin K, which is important for your nervous system (12), and lutein, which has been shown to accumulate in the brain and is positively correlated with cognitive function (13).
In addition to proper nutrition, there are other things you can do to improve cognitive performance, to keep your brain sharp and in good condition.
Do Brain Exercises
Studies show that mentally stimulating activities create new connections between your nerve cells, which may protect your brain from the effects of aging (14). Answering puzzles and math problems are some of the ways you can stimulate your brain. Additionally, science has found that learning a second language offers brain health advantages (15).
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity not only helps you stay fit and healthy, but it also improves learning and memory. Staying active can help you improve both your physical and mental health (16).
Build Social Networks
Keeping in touch with old friends and meeting new people might help to improve your brain health. Studies show that having strong social relationships may help improve cognitive function (17).
Your brain — along with your heart, of course — is your body’s powerhouse. Nutrition matters immensely. Everything you consume has an impact on you. Make smart choices, opt for wholesome foods, and reap the benefits.
- “Dietary omega 3 fatty acids and the developing brain”, Innis, SM., (2008).
- “Health-promoting effects of green tea”, Suzuki, Y., et al., (2012).
- “Green tea effects on cognition, mood and human brain function: A systematic review”, Mancini, E., et al., (2017).
- “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance”, Nehlig, A., (2013).
- “Flavonoids as antioxidants”, Pietta, PG., (2000).
- “Vitamin E as an antioxidant/free radical scavenger against amyloid beta-peptide-induced oxidative stress in neocortical synaptosomal membranes and hippocampal neurons in culture: insights into Alzheimer’s disease”, Butterfield, DA., et al., (1999)
- “Effects of whole grains on coronary heart disease risk”, Harris, KA., et al., (2010).
- “Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and blood pressure: epidemiological, clinical and experimental evidence”, Alonso A., et al., (2006).
- “Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake”, Polak, R., et al., (2015).
- “Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases.”, Subash, S., et. al., (2014).
- “The impact of fruit flavonoids on memory and cognition”, Spencer, JP., (2010).
- “Vitamin K and brain function”, Ferland, G., (2013).
- “Lutein and Brain Function”, Erdman, K., et al., (2015).
- “Association of Crossword Puzzle Participation with Memory Decline in Persons Who Develop Dementia”, Pillai J., et al., (2014).
- “The neuroprotective effects of bilingualism upon the inferior parietal lobule: A Structural Neuroimaging Study in Aging Chinese Bilinguals”, Abutalebi, J., et al., (2014).
- “Exercise and the brain: something to chew on”, Van Praag, H., (2009).
- “Social relationships and cognitive decline: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal cohort studies”, Kuiper, JS., et al., (2016).