You’ve heard of heart-healthy foods – but what about brain-healthy? Luckily, there are many foods out there that can help your brain, by improving focus and concentration or keeping your grey matter from deteriorating. Here are the top eight foods that are great for your brain.
The antioxidants in blueberries have long been heralded for their ability to help the body regenerate – the same is true when it comes to brain function. A 2014 study by scientists from Purdue University, North Carolina State University and Rutgers University found that the anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins found in blueberries are able to combat neurodegeneration to help brain cells survive longer.
2. Green Tea
Another 2014 study, this time from the University of Basel (Switzerland), looked at the effect of green tea on memory and cognition – finding that regular consumption of green tea enhanced the short-term synaptic plasticity of the brain. The findings suggest that green tea might help in the treatment of cognitive impairments, commonly associated with degenerative diseases like dementia.
Green tea is also a source of caffeine, although in lower doses than coffee. However, green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which increases dopamine in the brain, thus reducing anxiety and increasing brain function.
As a source of healthy unsaturated fats, avocado can help keep your brain cell membranes flexible. An October 2012 issue of the "Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology" looked at the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados and found that they help to protect nerve cells in the brain which are responsible for transmitting information. This is just one of the reasons why avocados are recommended for those at risk of Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases.
In addition to helping your brain, avocados are also great for reducing cholesterol levels and can protect from heart disease.
4. Beet Greens
Beet greens (the top of the beet plant) are excellent source of vitamin K – just 30 grams of beet greens gives you over 100 percent of your daily recommended value. While great for bones, vitamin K also limits neuron damage in the brain and is currently used in the treatment of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
5. Fish (or Fish Oil)
Fatty or oily fish (particularly salmon) contain omega-3 fatty acids which help with memory and mental performance. People who do not consume adequate omega-3 fatty acids can experience poor memory as well as mood swings, depression and fatigue. Fish oil can also improve concentration and mood, particularly fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Your body needs water for many things, including maximizing brain function. The Mayo Clinic reports that the average adult loses 80 ounces of water per day, yet only drinks 32 ounces. This lack of water consumption can lead to problems with memory and focus, as well as sleep issues and headaches.
Water provides your brain with the access to electrical energy for brain function – consuming adequate water ensures that your brain can function optimally. A study in 2013 suggests that drinking water can speed up your mental processes by 14 percent.
7. Dark Chocolate
A small piece of dark chocolate is rich in flavanols – which quickly boost blood flow to areas of the brain.This helps boost alertness and brain function for a short-term period. A study by the University of Nottingham found these results, along with evidence that chocolate can help fight fatigue and sleep deprivation. These same flavanols are also found in varying amounts in other brain-boosting foods including blueberries and green tea.
Finally, eggs (specifically the yolk) are a great source of choline, which helps create the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – a key component for memory and cognitive performance.
Including just a few of these foods in your daily diet can help your brain maintain optimal function, as well as giving you a quick lift when you need it.