Your brain is your most important organ, but often it goes unnoticed because it’s such a big part of who you are. Diets to improve the health of the heart get a lot of the spotlight, but the brain gets overlooked, which is ironic because it’s the thing that’s running the show. Many people are looking for ways to improve their brain health so that they can stay alert and active their whole lives. These foods will help the cause and help you function at your best now, and into the future.
Eggplant has been specifically noted as being good for the brain because it has certain antioxidants that help protect brain cell membranes. Research shows that eggplant contains an antioxidant called anthocyanin that has been shown to protect against lipid peroxidation of brain homogenates. Eggplant is a very versatile vegetable and is easily incorporated into your diet as a side dish or as part of a main dish.
According to one study, broccoli contains a compound known as sulforaphane that has been shown to improve brain function after injury. Is there anything broccoli isn’t good for? This vegetable has long been noted for its health benefits, but perhaps its most important feature is its effect on the brain. The potassium it contains helps the nervous system, which in turn helps the brain, and research suggests that broccoli could help contribute to the brain healing itself in the case of an injury. That’s pretty powerful stuff for a vegetable, and it’s not just limited to broccoli, but extends to the cruciferous vegetable family, including cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Garlic is especially helpful for the brain because it has multiple factors that all contribute to proper brain function. It helps thin the blood, which increase the flow throughout the body, including to the brain. It also helps battle free radical damage to the brain, which has been associated with degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. Lastly, garlic has been shown to be effective in preventing and battling back tumors in the brain. Taking garlic supplements may be an easier way to get the requisite amount of garlic per day.
Reducing the amount of cholesterol in your body not only helps your heart, but in turn helps the brain get the amount of oxygen it requires. Oatmeal is one of the top foods to help lower cholesterol, and therefore earns respect as a food that’s good for your brain. The glucose in oatmeal also provides sustenance to your brain, and is a big part of what your brain needs each day to survive. The carbs in oatmeal are broken down slowly, which is why it’s great for sustained energy and alertness, and why you don’t end up with a crash the way you do with “energy” drinks.
5. Dark Chocolate
If you’re a fan of chocolate, you’ll want to opt for dark because it has several advantages over milk chocolate. One of those advantages is that it’s shown to improve the amount of blood that flows to your brain. It’s been shown to lessen the chances of getting a stroke, which is one of the most debilitating things that can happen to your brain. They also contain antioxidants, which are absent from milk chocolate, and these antioxidants can slow the aging process, including the aging of the brain. According to one study, dark chocolate can boost brain power, learning, memory, and cognitive processing.
Lentils are getting more mainstream attention, and it’s because of things like being good for your brain that are the reason. The fiber and antioxidants contained in lentils is what’s given credit, and they help keep the blood circulating to the brain. They also help reduce blood sugar levels to supply your brain with a steady flow of glucose. This can’t be overlooked, as it has a strong impact on how your brain operates on a day to day basis, and with time it can mean the difference between having a healthy, active brain and a sluggish, aged brain.
If you’re not in the habit of having almonds handy as a snack, you may want to establish it. These crunchy snacks can help get you to the next meal, and help you avoid eating unhealthy foods in a moment of intense hunger. They contain a good dose of vitamin E, which over time can help you maintain your cognitive abilities. These abilities include learning, problem solving, remembering, and paying attention. It’s hard to make the connection between what you eat and how you think, but there definitely is one.
There are several characteristics of eggs that make them good for your brain. Research shows that the choline in eggs helps with brain development. The yolks are especially good for the part of your memory that helps you remember short term things, like where you parked. The protein that eggs contain, typically consumed in the morning as a breakfast, can keep your brain hitting all the right notes throughout the day.
9. Lean Meats
How can lean meats help your brain? Not just any lean meats are recommended if you’re interested in improving your brain function. Tryptophan in many of the most popularly consumed meats will help you calm down during the day and sleep better at night. Most meats are also good sources of B vitamins 6 and 12, which directly help the brain’s neurotransmitters and metabolism respectively. Go with grass-fed organic meat to reduce the amount of antibiotics and growth hormones that are given to conventional livestock.
The omega-3s found in salmon are beneficial to the brain, and salmon is often recommended on many diet plans for its high levels of protein. But hands down it is the omega-3s that are providing the most benefit to your brain, as these can actually help you think better, and can prevent the diseases of the brain that we’re all trying to avoid. It can even improve your mood, making you less hostile and depressed if eaten consistently. You can also eat sardines for many of the same benefits.
11. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter has healthy fats in the form of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated that your brain and body both need. For years these types of fats were lumped together with trans fat and labeled bad as part of the low-fat and no-fat dieting strategies. But the more that is discovered about these fats the more it’s seen how essential they are to overall health. You’ll have to get the kind of peanut butter that is made from only peanuts, preferably organic, as you don’t want any of the additional oils that are added to many conventional peanut butter brands.
12. Red Wine
For several years wine has been recommended by doctors for its ability to thin the blood, and prevent heart disease and cancer. The resveratrol it contains has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why you’ve seen doctors saying to drink a glass of red wine daily, to provide daily support.
The potassium in a banana helps the brain, and low potassium levels can inhibit your ability to think clearly and focus. Bananas also contain fiber to help you meet your daily fiber needs, and tryptophan to keep you in a good mood. It is often thought that tryptophan induces sleep, but what it really does is gets your serotonin levels going, which can make you feel calmer and help you sleep. Bananas also contain vitamins that are important for brain function.
Yet another healthy benefit of spinach is that it can improve the health of your brain thanks to its phytonutrients and fiber, as well as essential minerals. The folate in spinach will help with the blood circulation to and from your brain. Spinach is also a detoxifying food, and works wonders on your liver, which in turn keeps your entire body humming along by removing toxins that can impair the proper functioning of all of your organs.
Kale is something of a wonder food and is just now getting to be pretty mainstream, as we discover just how good it is for the body. It is just as healthy as spinach, if not more so, and has plenty of antioxidants, fiber, and iron to keep you feeling strong and healthy. Unlike spinach, it falls under the category of cruciferous vegetables, which are noted as being a great group of foods for the brain, as well as the heart and other systems. Research shows that kale can help improve cognitive control in older adults.
16. Brown Rice
Making the switch from white rice to brown rice can actually help your brain, as well as the rest of your body. The reason is that more B vitamins are in brown rice, and these have an effect on how well your brain works. White rice, on the other hand, loses many of these vitamins during the process of making it white, and therefore you’re missing out on plenty of additional nutrients, the kind you get in brown rice. Brown rice also has more fiber, which has many benefits of its own. Research shows that the germ layer and bran of brown rice helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of their lycopene content, tomatoes have been recommended by the medical community for well over the last decade. They are getting extra attention as of late for the promising signs that they can help prevent Alzheimers, Parkinson’s, dementia, and other degenerative diseases of the brain. Eat your tomatoes cooked to absorb the most lycopene from them, although they’ll still contain some in raw form, cooking them releases much more.
18. Whole Grains
Even though there are a large number of diets advocating getting rid of grains, including gluten-free and Paleo diets, research has shown that whole grains can provide your brain with what it needs to stay alert and on the ball. The reason is that these foods often provide you with improved heart health, which improves your circulation, and also improves your brain. It’s all connected, so it’s important to keep everything flowing well throughout the entire body. One study found that eating whole grains is one of the most important food groups for preventing blood sugar problems. And since your blood sugar is responsible for fueling your brain, you want to keep these levels stable.
Being in a dehydrated state can cause headaches and lightheadedness, and can make it hard to focus on the task at hand. Keeping yourself hydrated throughout the day is key to your daily brain functions. It’s not the easiest habit to develop if you’ve gone without the right amount of water intake for a long time, and it’s important to gradually get more water over time, so you don’t flood the system. Rehydrating yourself first thing in the morning is a good way to start the day, as you’ve gone a full night without any fluid intake.
Avocados are a great resource for those trying to optimize their brain cells. First, they have healthy fats that help to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation throughout the body. One study found that avocados help boost your lutein levels, which is needed to help keep the brain healthy. They also contain almost as much potassium as a banana, which helps oxidize your brain. They are also great for lowering blood pressure, which in turn helps the brain stay healthy.
21. Green Tea
The antioxidants and amino acid L-theanine in green tea are what gives it so much notoriety. In addition to helping you lose weight and fight off cancer and heart disease, green tea is a boon to the brain. One study found that green tea reduces anxiety and boosts memory and attention, which is one more reason to make the switch from coffee to green tea!
22. Flax Seed
Flax seeds are known for the omega-3s they contain, as well as a large amount of fiber for such a small seed. Both of these will do wonders for the brain over time, and it’s easy enough to start getting more flax into your life. According to one study, flaxseeds improve motor hyperactivity and mitigate brain mass loss. They even improve memory! These little seeds can be mixed into soups, added to oatmeal (another item on this list), or added to a green smoothie made with kale or spinach (also on this list) as a brain-boosting pick-me-up.
This delicious melon can actually be used to improve your brain. Keeping the seeds in the melon is a good idea if you’re eating it for brain health. They contain omega-3s and are often tossed down the garbage disposal during the preparation process. These essential fatty acids are used not only by the brain but by the rest of the body, and it’s important to get enough of them each day. One study found that melon helps reduce stress and improve both mental and physical fatigue.
Cashews contain vitamin E which helps you continue on with life as you know if for a longer time than if you didn’t get enough of it. It also contains plenty of healthy fats, which helps the body regulate blood flow. Research shows that the long-term intake of nuts improves cognitive function in older women. When choosing your cashews, go for organic and raw varieties instead of roasted or salted to avoid unnecessary fats and sodium.
25. Pumpkin Seeds
Perhaps you’ve only eaten pumpkin seeds a few times after carving a pumpkin for Halloween. But they’re getting more and more press for their healthy contents, and they make a strong case for being labeled a superfood. Their magnesium content helps the heart, which in turn helps the brain, and it also helps the body relax. Feeling relaxed puts the brain in a state where it can think better and more clearly. According to one study, magnesium also helps boost brain power, so eat up!
The antioxidant value of blueberries has been well established, and they have been credited with everything from helping to prevent cancer, to making heart disease less likely. They are also known for helping the brain stay unharmed from free radicals, and this is thought to be a contributor to conditions in the brain that develop as you get older. One study found that blueberries also improves brain function in older people, which means that eating blueberries on a regular basis should help you stay coherent longer into your life.
You may have been aware that carrots are good for your eyes, two very important organs, but they’re also good for your brain. It’s often taken as a given that your memory will get worse as you age, but carrots contain luteolin which helps prevent that from happening. Research shows that luteolin helps reduce age-related memory deficits. The good news is that you can get this benefit both from eating carrots, or from drinking carrot juice.