Top Ten Brain Foods and Best Brain Food

When looking for brain foods, it is important to understand what basic compounds we are looking for in certain foods. Brain specific nutrients are antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and choline.  As far as antioxidants are concerned, the best antioxidants for your brain are flavonoids. Flavonoids are a specific type of antioxidant that stimulate the brain by activating an enzyme called Enos. This enzyme increases the amount of blood and oxygen flow to the brain allowing it to operate at its highest level.

Something else you want to look for are Omega-3 fatty acids. These are considered essential fatty acids which can only be obtained from food (anytime you see that a nutrient is ‘essential’, it means that it is needed for development, but can’t be produced by the body). This is why it is very important for pregnant women to take a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy as the body cannot produce them on its own and they are essential for proper brain development. The brain has concentrated amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, so you can see how these are THE brain food.

Another important compound for healthy brains is choline. This is another essential nutrient which must be obtained through food. Choline is very important during gestation for brain development and after birth for memory and cognitive health. Egg yolks are the number one source of choline and nutritionists recommend feeding children a steady supply of eggs up until the age of six to encourage healthy brain development. Last but not least, let’s take a look at fiber. Fiber rich foods are important for conducting the flow of energy to the brain. Fiber allows the body to absorb food in such a way that energy is supplied to the brain at a consistent and steady rate.

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are the brain’s best friend given that they have the greatest amounts of a cancer and degenerative disease fighting antioxidant called flavonoid. Tiny but mighty, these little fruits are believed to protect the brain from deblilitating age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants that aid in supplying blood and oxygen to the brain, which means that having a cup of blueberries (in any form) early in the morning can significantly improve your concentration levels and focus later in the afternoon. However, while blueberries are the richest in the antioxidant flavonoid, strawberries and raspberries also contain this antioxidant and can also be seen as a great brain booster.

2. Deep Water Fish

Fish such as wild salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are highly concentrated in the brain and essential for brain development during gestation and brain health throughout a person’s lifetime. Studies have shown that people who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids are at a lower risk for developing age-related and cognitive-decline related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dimentia, and schizophrenia. The omega-3 fatty acids found in deep water fish can also improve mood disorders such as Bipolar Disorder and depression. Omega-3 fatty acids are also responsible for synaptic activity in the brain, or the method by which neurons have conversations and make things happen in your brain. People with omega-3 deficiencies have decreased synaptic activity, which means that their brain is doing the whole buffering thing while processing information. Want to make eating fish for your brain absolutely amazing? Add a tablespoon of olive oil and some freshly crushed garlic cloves to your fish before cooking and you’ve got yourself a mighty brain-booster of a meal (olive oil and garlic are rich in omega-3 fatty acids). Nutritionists recommend eating deep water fish two to three times a week for healthy and efficient brain function. The most important part of an omega-3 rich diet is that you will be preparing your brain to confront issues in the future, so by consuming fish and other omega-3 rich foods, you are building barracades around your brain to help you ward off diseases in the future. Something to keep in mind while preparing your omega-3 rich foods is that these types of fatty acids are harmed by heat and oxygen, so it is best get them in their raw state, however in the case of fish, broiling or grilling will conserve enough nutrients to be effective.

3. Avocado

Avocados, which are rich in monosaturated fats, promotes healthy blood flow (better circulation means higher functioning brain) and helps prevent hypertension which is a primary factor in cognitive decline. The increased levels of blood circulation provided by consuming avocado can greatly improve cognitive abilities such as memory and concentration. So add about a fourth of an avocado to your lunch sandwich and you’ll be ready to face that evening of studying with a whole new level of concentration. The best part? Avocados contain folic acid, which plays a huge role in preventing age-related brain problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. All in all, you’ve found the perfect excuse to gorge on guacamole- Just remember that avocados are a high calorie food and you should consume it in moderation (Half an avocado a day will do).

4. Spinach

Spinach is a super brain food because like berries, it is rich in flavonoids. This super food prevents age related cognitive decline and helps the brain function at its highest by helping it act normally despite its age. A study with lab mice showed that aging mice who were fed spinach were able to perform learning tasks with the same proficiency as younger mice while also significantly improving their motor skills. Other studies indicate that eating three servings of leafy green vegetables such as spinach daily can reduce cognitive decline by forty percent! This means that your brain will function as if it were three to four years younger and you can significantly improve your chances of avoiding age-related brain problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, dimentia, memory loss, and mood disorders. If consuming spinach is not something you find very appealing, here is a simple way of getting your daily supplement: An easy way to get your dose of flavonoids each day is to prepare a brain-boosting smoothie that contains blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and fresh spinach. This makes for an excellent nutrient-rich breakfast and can help you retain a high-functioning, healthy brain.

5. Eggs

Egg yolks contain an important compound called choline, which is essential for brain development during the gestation period as well as cardiovascular and bone health. Studies have proven that consuming adequate amounts of choline protects the brain from age-related problems and helps us retain mental abilities throughout our lifetime. This amazing brain food also aids in preventing memory loss, age-related disorders such as Alzheimers, and other neurobiological disorders. Choline is an essential nutrient and our bodies cannot produce it on their own. This compound is so important mothers pass it to their babies through breast milk. Choline-rich foods are the top brain foods for children.  Nutritionists recommend that eggs be fed to children up until the age of six when their brains will be fully developed. Of course, the protein and brain nutrients in eggs means that you will continue to feed them to your children after the age of six, but this is a critical brain growth period and choline is an essential nutrient during this time.

6. Whole Grains

Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are the brain’s main source of power. When complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the brain uses it as fuel to think, to react, and to work effectively. The brain needs energy to function, so it is very important to supply it in the healthiest way possible. Make sure that you consume fiber rich whole grains though, instead of simple carbohydrates. The fiber in whole grains allows your body to enjoy a consistent, steady supply of energy rather than the dash-and-go energy you get from consuming simple carbohydrates. Foods rich in whole grains are whole-grain breads, pasta, brown rice, and cereals (whole-grain oatmeal is awesome!).

7. Nuts and Seeds

Walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews- You name it. Nuts and seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which are found in high concentrations in the brain. Flax seeds can be substituted for fish since they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and have even been linked to treating mood disorders. Sunflower seeds contain high amounts of a B vitamin known as thiamine, which is vital for memory and cognitive health. Cashews, which are high in magnesium, improve blood circulation and oxygen supply which in turn allows your organs, including the brain, to function better. Peanuts and pecans are a natural source of choline, which is essential for brain development and necessary for healthy memory function. As you can see, nuts are very rich in brain-empowering nutrients and the best part is that they are not hard to incorporate into your diet. You can use flax seeds to sprinkle on your baby spinach salad (brain food) or simply snack on a handful of nuts instead of that sugary candy.

8. Black Beans

Beans are an excellent brain food as they contain four brain-empowering nutrients: Fiber, folate, B-vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants. It should be noted that I suggested specifically black beans. This is because black beans are the darkest and this makes them the most antioxidant rich. Remember from the foods above that fiber (beans are extremely rich in fiber) allows your body to absorb nutrients more slowly, which gives the brain a steady flow of fuel throughout the day. Magnesium increases brain function by increasing the levels of oxygen in the blood and promoting great blood circulation. Beans also contain B-vitamins which are important for memory and cognitive functions. Finally, antioxidants (especially flavonoids) present in beans activate an enzyme in the body which brings blood and oxygen to the brain, supplying it with high-functioning energy. Beans are also a very affordable brain food and something that you can have in your cupboard year round.

9. Green Tea and Coffee

Depending on where you live- or what health blogs you’ve read- it is very likely that you are either a tea person or a coffee person. The great news is that both coffee and tea are considered brain foods. While tea provides you with a steady brain-boosting energy, coffee gives your brain a little jolt upon the first sip. Coffee is great for ‘waking you up’ while tea is good for keeping you going. Whatever your preference, both tea and coffee are antioxidant rich (Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee!) mental-boosting drinks. For maximum mental performance, you should drink one cup of tea or half a cup of coffee every hour. This has been linked to improved vigilance and increased mental speed for simple, well-practised tasks. As all students and hard-working professionals know, the caffeine in tea and especially coffee are great for extending wakefulness. This can be a plus on those nights when you need a few more hours to study or work, but remember that the brain also needs rest.

10. Dark Chocolate

Extensive studies have been done on the flavonoids specific to dark chocolate and the results prove that dark chocolate does indeed qualify as a brain boosting food. People who consumed a high dose of dark chocolate (according to a study done by the Alzheimer’s Society) scored higher on cognitive tests involving working memory (short-term memory), phonological memory (verbal memory) and spatio-visual memory. The individuals tested were being treated for memory problems and to find that the flavonoids from dark chocolate specifically had this effect on their cognitive abilities truly speaks to the power of this delicious brain food. The only worry with dark chocolate is that it is a high-calorie food and chocolate-lovers may over-consume. The key is to eat only about one once of the stuff and make sure that it is dark chocolate as opposed to the sugary light chocolates that contain minimum amounts of antioxidant-rich cocoa.

More Brain Foods

The foods mentioned above contain the highest amount of brain-empowering compounds, however there are other foods that contain smaller amounts of brain boosters. For example, if blueberries are out of season or not too budget-friendly,

you can always get your serving of flavonoids with raspberries or strawberries. For your supplements of choline, you can also consume lean beef, chicken, and turkey, and cauliflower. Pasture-fed meats and dairy are other omega-3 rich foods as well as soy foods.

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