The foods we eat can have a big impact on the structure and health of our brains. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain function. The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body’s calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day. The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Here are five foods to boost your brain power starting now:
- Blueberries – blueberries are both low in natural sugar and are loaded with antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the brain from free radicals that we are exposed to everyday, like smoke and pollution. When free radicals are left unaddressed it can lead to a what is called oxidative stress which contributes to age-related degenerative diseases, including mental decline. Start your day right and include blueberries with your breakfast.
- Dark Chocolate – If you don’t love the idea of blueberries on your yogurt or oatmeal, eating it with dark chocolate may be more appealing. Both dark chocolate and blueberries contain anthocyanins and flavanols that have been proven to improve cognition in laboratory and clinical studies. Cocoa and blueberries improve blood flow to the brain. In fact, a study from the University of Reading showed, blueberries and cocoa consumption improved “executive function and episodic memory.”
- Walnuts – If you want something to snack on throughout the day, walnuts are a really good option. Walnuts have melatonin and are rich in magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Magnesium helps reduce stress hormones and inflammation. Walnuts are also one of the top recommended nuts for brain health because they help improve cognitive functions and contain brain-boosting vitamin E. Recent research has focused on vitamin E and its impact on Alzheimer’s disease.
- Oily Fish – Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities. These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.