Diet and nutrition play a large role in brain development and function throughout your life. Research shows that diet is one the most powerful influences on maintaining a healthy brain. Memory, attention span, and ability to learn all benefit from healthful foods. Key nutrients, daily brain games, and smart lifestyle habits, such as getting adequate amounts of sleep and exercise, all help to keep brain cells healthy and prevent brain-damaging inflammation.
Eating a well balanced, brain-healthy diet can help reduce your risk of chronic age-related conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Good nutrition and healthy eating patterns can improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Foods that boost brain power:
- Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are packed with antioxidants that are powerhouses for brain performance. Antioxidants which neutralize free radicals can help optimize brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive diseases.
- Wild salmon. Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids contribute to improved brain processing power and cognition, and are believed to be essential for a healthy mind. Oily fish contains the omega-3’s EPA and DHA in easily used forms that aid in reducing inflammation.
- Blueberries are thought to help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effect of age-related conditions such as cognitive impairment and dementia. Consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss.
- Nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin E, which is associated with reduced cognitive decline. Pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds provide zinc, vital for enhancing memory, learning, and thinking skills. Flax seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids used to build and protect healthy neurons of the brain and nervous system.
- Avocados, high in monounsaturated fat, promote brain health by contributing to healthy blood flow and aid in lowering blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor in the decline of cognitive abilities. Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a fatty acid which helps to build myelin. Myelin, found in white matter of the brain, enhances information processing.
- Whole grains promote cardiovascular health and good blood flow to the body’s organ system, which includes the brain. The ability to focus and concentrate comes from an adequate and steady supply of glucose. Whole grains have a low glycemic index, meaning glucose is released slowly into the bloodstream, which helps support mental alertness by providing a continual supply of brain food and energy.
- Antioxidants found in citrus fruits, pomegranates, and colorful vegetables help protect the brain from free-radical damage.
- Modest amounts of caffeine, found in coffee, tea and dark chocolate, can improve attention span, reaction time and short term memory.
- Apples contain quercetin which offers powerful neuroprotection, arming brain cells against free radicals. Most of the quercetin is found in the skin, so be sure to eat the peel to get the benefits.
- Grapes, wine and dark chocolate contain flavonols and polyphenols which offer a short-term boost in cognitive skills and may prevent some cognitive impairments. Purple grapes contain the phytonutrient resveratrol, known for its healthy effects on circulation. Circulatory problems can contribute to dementia by decreasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Research suggests that polyphenols may help the brain stay healthy by promoting memory, learning and cognitive function, and by reducing toxicity and inflammation.
- Brown rice contains high-energy B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and inositol for energy production and optimal brain health.
- Beans help stabilize blood glucose levels and aid in providing a steady flow of glucose to the brain, which is dependent on glucose for fuel.
Foods to avoid for healthy brain function:
- Trans-fats found in fried foods, margarine, bakery goods and fast foods, contribute to a series of health problems including heart-related issues, elevated cholesterol levels and obesity. Trans-fats slowly damage the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Trans-fats have been linked to brain shrinkage, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sugar and sugary products can interfere with memory and your ability to learn. Chronic sugar consumption reduces the production of a brain chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Lowered levels of BDNF have been linked to depression and dementia, and a dulling of the brain’s mechanism that indicates when you have had enough to eat, contributing to obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.
- Junk food affects brain chemicals associated with depression and anxiety, and interferes with the production of dopamine, a chemical that supports cognitive function, learning capacity, alertness, motivation, memory and the overall feeling of wellbeing and happiness.
B-Complex Plus by Pure Encapsulations – B-Complex Plus contains an exceptional combination of B vitamins, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, biotin, and folic acid (as Metafolin® L-5-MTHF), all of which are provided in their optimal bioavailable and functional forms.
CoQ10 and L-Carnitine by Physiologics – Coenzyme Q-10 plays an essential role in the production of cellular ATP, cardiovascular health maintenance, and antioxidant protection. L-Carnitine transports fatty acids into mitochondria to promote cellular energy production. This product contains a synergistic mixture of Coenzyme Q-10, L-Carnitine (as L-Carnitine Fumarate), Gamma Tocopherol, Vitamin E (as d-Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin C (as Ascorbyl Palmitate).
PS (Phosphatidylserine) 100 mg by Natural Factors – PS is a natural brain component and is integral to all brain cell activity including support and maintenance of mental performance and memory function. PS has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and endocrine response to stress and to decrease muscle damage and soreness following exercise.