Want to keep your mind sharp and nourished? Here are 10 highly effective brain foods that improve memory, mood, concentration, and overall clarity of thought. The nutrients they contain can boost both your well-being and productivity.
Read also: How to Keep Your Brain Sharp At Any Age
1 – Blueberries
Blueberries are not exactly exotic, but they are no less of a real super-food for it. The little blue berries are chock-full of nutrients essential to a wide range of functions in your body. Notably, they can boost brain function. A core finding of studies has been that regular blueberry consumption can improve memory.
What’s more, blueberries – like a few other foods on this list – are rich in antioxidants. These ingredients help prevent free radicals from damaging your cells and DNA. Still not convinced? Research has found that blueberries can reverse age-related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination. They’re not just excellent brain food, but also a tasty anti-aging dish.
2 – Salmon
Salmon has a reputation for being one of the healthiest foods out there. That’s mainly because this brain food is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, specifically one called DHA. These fatty acids help your brain protect and renew its tissues, which increases your brain power.
Because of its rejuvenating effect on the brain, there are serious long-term cognitive benefits. This makes salmon a key player in fighting Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related cognitive disorders.
3 – Flax seeds
Flax seeds, also known as linseed, are crammed with healthy fatty acids. One of them, ALA, aids the function of your cerebral cortex. This is the portion of the brain responsible for processing sensory information. Keeping it sharp is vital, and becomes more important as we age.
Whether you prefer them crushed or as oil, flax seeds also protect your brain health indirectly. ALA and the other essential fatty acids it contains can lower both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Hypertension increases the risk for strokes and dementia. High blood cholesterol can foster both strokes and plaques in the brain. These plaques are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.
4 – Coffee
A regular cup of coffee reduces the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders. That’s because caffeine boosts dopamine, a core neurotransmitter in the brain. Dopamine is especially important for memory and concentration. Apart from this, coffee also activates our reward system, which improves both mood and motivation.
As another bonus, coffee is rich in antioxidants. It’s important to note that straight black coffee has the highest benefits as a brain food. If what you’re drinking is crammed with sugar, sweeteners, and fatty products, you’re doing your brain more harm than good.
5 – Mixed Nuts
Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts have a wide range of health benefits. Nuts can help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and strengthening memory. They are generally rich in brain-protecting Omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts especially. Almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Almonds can also lower blood fats – as do pistachios, macadamias, and hazelnuts. In turn, this prevents strokes and brain plaques. All nuts are high in antioxidants as well. Brazil nuts, finally, are excellent sources of neuron-protecting selenium, which also improves brain signalling.
6 – Avocados
Don’t let the avocado’s fat content fool you. It’s a healthy, unsaturated fat that promotes blood flow, keeping your mind functioning at its peak. Experts put them on the same level as blueberries when it comes to boosting brain health.
Like a few other foods on this list, avocados also protect your brain by reducing blood pressure. That said, enjoy this tasty brain food in moderation, because even the healthiest fats are high in raw calories.
7 – Eggs
Egg yolks are rich in choline and lutein, both essential nutrients for memory function.
It’s true that eggs aren’t exactly light on cholesterol, but nutritionists now recognize that they mostly contain “good cholesterol” – HDL. HDL counters the negative effects of its “bad” cousin, LDL. In this way, eggs can protect your blood vessels and your brain.
8 – Whole Grains
From oatmeal to dark bread, whole grains are excellent brain foods. They can improve circulation in your brain and the rest of your body. They are rich in vitamins and contribute some Omega-3 fatty acids.
A major benefit comes from their fiber content, which boosts gut health. In a good example of how all systems in our bodies are linked, a healthy gut is essential for top brain function. Just make your sandwiches from whole grain bread to enjoy the benefits.
9 – Chocolate
This certainly one of the yummiest brain foods. Dark chocolate especially is rich in antioxidants and theobromine. Together, these nutrients improve focus, concentration, and mood.
That’s not to say that milk chocolate is off the table: Both kinds are good for memory, impulse control, and reaction time.
10 – Broccoli
Chances are, you don’t enjoy our final brain food as much as chocolate, but you might want to rethink your stance on it. Studies have found that broccoli can improve memory and slow the aging process. This means a broccoli-rich diet will keep you young and sharp.
Which brain foods do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments!
Note: This post was first published in 2010. It has since been updated with new studies, topical links, and additional food items.