Mind and body are strictly connected. Supply of right nutrients to your brain will significantly ameliorate your brain’s function and sustainability. There are more than one reason for the depression, stress or bad memory happening. They can be lack of sleep, genetics, physical activities or environmental factors. However, there is no doubt that diet plays a vital role in maintaining and improving your brain’s function and capacity.
There is a saying “you are what you eat”. This is truer than ever. A healthy and smart diet should be a rich source for not only your physical but also mental health. Your ability to focus, learn, analyse and memorise information depends on your brain power that is enhanced by a supply of right vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and good fats.
As we age, our brains shrink in volume, especially in the frontal cortex. Aging brain is weaker in cognition and memory. Therefore, a proper diet with right nutrients for the brain will be an understructure for you to attain a healthy life both mentally and physically.
There are some foods better for the brain than others. The following are 8 types of food you should be eating to nourish an agile and sustainable brain.
1. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green vegetables are not just super foods for your brainpower but also for your blood quality, heart, digestion, your youth and beauty. I’m one of the biggest fans of green vegetables. Lovers say to one another “I can’t live without you”, I say “I can’t live without vegetables”.
Here are the best green vegetables for your brain that you can easily find at supermarkets.
Broccoli is my favourite and one of the top-of-the-list vegetables that can maintain your mental agility and slow down the age-related degeneration of the brain. Broccoli is a generous source of Vitamin C which is a vital antioxidant molecule in the brain, according to the US National Library of Medicine (ULM).
Broccoli also contains particularly high levels of Vitamin K and Choline, substances that enhance your cognitive function and keep your memory sharp. In addition, Broccoli provides you fair amount of brain-beneficial vitamins including Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin A. I will discuss further the importance of Vitamin B-6 to the brainpower in later sections.
This tasty vegetable is also rich in Vitamin B-6 that helps prevent brain tissue shrinkage.
This dark green plant possesses a special power allowing your brain to foster its capability. The first thing to be mentioned is that Kale delivers huge amount of Vitamin K, around 6 times higher than that of Broccoli, 684 % Daily Value per selected serving, according SELF Nutrition Data. Kale is considered the Vitamin-K richest food. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin. It participates in the nervous system through its involvement in sphingolipid metabolism, a class of lipids widely present in brain cell membranes. Also, there has been evidence that Vitamin K can enhance cognitive function.
Equally important, Kale contains remarkably high amount of Vitamin A, 206% Daily Value per selected serving. This vitamin helps maintain neuronal plasticity and cognitive function in adulthood.
To your surprise, Kale has more to offer. It provides you with high amount of Vitamin C that is not only vital antioxidant for the brain but also helps defend against neurodegenerative diseases.
Percent Daily Values (%DV) are for adults or children aged 4 or older, and are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.
Spinach is considered one of the super brain foods available on the shelf. This easy-to-cook vegetable is a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C that are important antioxidants for your brain. Spinach also provides you with fair amount of other vital brain-nutrients such as Magnesium, Vitamin B-6 and Iron. Moreover, the flavonoids found in spinach may also help reduce plaque buildup that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Enriching your diet with spinach will not only protect your brain cells from age-related degeneration but also can expand the brain’s learning capacity.
Nuts should never be omitted in your brain food list. They are rich in vitamin E, a substance that is crucial in protecting brain membrane and reduces cognitive decline caused by aging. Nuts are also loaded with antioxidants that neutralize free radicals so they can’t harm your cells.
The most common used nuts are:
- Pine nuts
- Brazil nuts
- Macadamia nuts
My favourites in the list are almonds, walnuts, pine nuts and Brazil nuts.
Almonds contain high level of Vitamin E and Magnesium, the mineral that directly improves the brain’s synaptic plasticity. The synaptic function affects strongly learning and memory performance of various regions in the brain.
Similarly, walnuts are not only impressively high in Magnesium but also rich in Vitamin B-6 that helps regulate your mood, ward off depression and fend off metal fatigue. Not to mention, Walnuts deliver the most Omega-3 fatty acids that have been proved to protect nerve cells against inflammation, preserve cognitive performance in adulthood and enhance intelligence in infancy and childhood.
Besides their enjoyable taste, pine nuts also provide you with high level of Magnesium, Vitamin E and particularly Vitamin K, 91% Daily Value per selected serving. Apart from benefits to the brain function discussed earlier, Vitamin K is known to be an anti-aging vitamin that prevents Alzheimer’s. Moreover, pine nuts are loaded with Zinc, an important mineral for the body as well as the brain. Zinc plays a key role in support of memory formation and cognitive stability. According to recent researches, lack of zinc has been implicated in impaired protein synthesis during brain development.
Brazil nuts are protein-rich and contain remarkably high amount of Magnesium, 125% of Daily Value per selected serving. Magnesium, as discussed, is an essential mineral that helps enhance memory and learning capability of the brain. Having Brazil nuts for breakfast is a great start for the day which prepares you well with protein, good fat, important minerals and vitamins for the brain including Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Vitamin E, Vitamin C and B-6.
Life is sweet with blueberries. This all-natural candy is known to be the one the highest antioxidant-rich foods for the brain. It’s significantly high in Vitamin C and Vitamin K that protect your brain from degeneration and oxidative stress.
Blackberries even have more to offer. They are lower in calories but richer in Vitamin C than blueberries. Blackberries are also lower in fat and carbohydrate than their blue cousins.
With a lot of surprise, strawberries are the richest in Vitamin C of the three and low in calories and fat. For many reasons, the delicious red fruits should definitely be in your healthy brain diet.
4. Whole Grains
We have been hearing about the benefits of whole grains to our health. Diet with whole grains provides your brain with glucose that generates energy and keeps you mentally alert for whole day. Whole grains such as whole rye, oats or brown rice can help you hinder cognitive decline and oxidative stress. If you are a rice-lover, instead of white rice, you can fill your hunger for rice with brown rice which is a good source of Magnesium and Vitamin B-6, substances that are vital to your brainpower. It’s also rich in fibre and high in antioxidant capacity.
Similarly, whole rye is incredibly high in Magnesium and good source of Vitamin B-6, Vitamin K and Vitamin E that prevent brain shrinkage and defend your brain against Alzheimer’s.
5. Fatty Fish
I have a funny saying, “I’m going White”. This is true for my diet that currently includes only white meat, particularly Omega-3-rich fish such as salmon. Since has this change in my diet happened for the last two years, I have seen an apparent evolution in my body. My body weight has gradually moved to my dreamed weight of 50 kilograms (I am 1.63 meters high) and been stable. And particularly, my concentration ability has been improved significantly. This achievement is of course attained by the combination of the healthy diet and physical exercises. However, diet plays a critical role in enhancing my general health as well as mental health. “You are what you eat”. This is again, a proven truth.
The Omega-3 richest fish is not salmon but mackerel. There are 2.6 grams of Omega-3 fatty acid per 3.5 ounces of mackerel fish. Standing in the second and the third place are followed by lake trout and herring with 2.0 and 1.7 grams respectively. Salmon stands in the fifth place with 1.5 grams of Omega-3 acid per 3.5 ounces, after tuna (1.6 grams).
We have been discussing tremendous benefits of Omega-3 fatty acid to the brainpower. It is known to not only keep your brain safe from nerve cells deterioration but also build brain cell membranes and foster new brain cells. Provenly, Omega-3 supplement in your diet will help you improve memory and cognitive performance.
Beans, particularly, green beans have been regarded as essential foods for the brain. They are abundant in Vitamins A, C, K and B-6, Calcium and Magnesium. Green beans also own impressively high antioxidant capacity. These substances are vital to the quality of the brain’s function and sustainability.
In the family of beans, black beans are also great sources of vitamins and minerals that are important to the brainpower, including Magnesium, Vitamin K and Zinc, according to National Nutrient Database, United States Department of Agriculture. They are also known to help stabilise glucose levels and thus provide the brain with steady stream of energy so that the brain can function well.
It will be incomplete without mentioning poultry. Poultry meat plays an important role in maintaining your well-being in general and your brainpower in particular. For many reasons, it is considered one among best brain foods that is popular to the family of white meat lovers.
In the top of the list is chicken that is particularly rich in Vitamin B-6. I have discussed the benefits of vitamin B-6 for the brain health in terms of mood regulation, depression elimination, memory power and attention function. Chicken meat also provides you with Vitamin B-12, Iron, Magnesium that are necessary for a healthy brain.
Duck is also protein-rich poultry that provides you not only Vitamin B-6, B-12, Iron but also Vitamin A that is critical for neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. Furthermore, duck is one of the ideal low-carb meat options for your healthy-brain diet.
Finally, turkey is a great brain food that is low in fat, low in carb and rich in protein. It is a fruitful source of Vitamin B-6, an imperative element of a strong brain. Turkey also delivers fair amount of nutrients that boost your brainpower such as Folic acid, Magnesium, Iron, and Zinc.
8. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
According to US National Library of Medicine (ULM), extra virgin olive oil contains high amount of Polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that diminish learning and memory deficits caused by aging and diseases. ULM’s research and findings indicated that extra virgin olive oil helps secure our learning and memory capability when we age or contract diseases.
Extra virgin olive oil is the unrefined oil that is pure and has the highest quality among olive oil varieties. Since extra virgin olive is not treated with chemicals or modified by temperature, its important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are preserved, which is critical to the general brain health.
Getting proactive in shaping a selective diet for your mental health is a critical move toward success in any life domain. Keeping your mentality in tip-top condition is the backbone for not only achieving higher performance and productivity but also defeating any obstacles, maintaining a happy and positive spirit. It’s time to take actions and make changes. A strong brain, no doubt, is the prerequisite for a contented and successful life.