The foods we eat have a major impact on our brain health and function. And as the control center of our body, it’s imperative that we keep our brains in peak working condition. The brain uses around 20% of the body’s calories, and it requires specific nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3, for example, helps build and repair brain cells. If you want to improve your cognitive skills, as well as overall brain health, adding brain healthy foods to your diet is key. So, here are the best brain healthy foods you can add to your diet for both short-term benefits (like increased concentration for studying) and long-term benefits (such as Alzheimer’s prevention).
Best Brain Healthy Foods:
Brain healthy foods contain specific components that support brain health. The most common components found in brain healthy foods are omega-3 and other healthful fats, b vitamins, lutein and antioxidants like flavonoids and vitamin E.
Walnuts are one of the best brain healthy foods because they’re a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. This helps with preserving memory and preventing cognitive decline. Studies have shown walnuts can also improve concentration, memory, brain processing speed, general cognitive test scores, and brain cell growth and communication.
Other nuts to eat include:
If you’re studying for a test or planning a big project, keep a handful of walnuts close by!
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cacao (cocoa). Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants are essential to brain health, as they help reduce oxidative stress, and risk of brain disease.
One study in 2013 found that the flavonoids in dark chocolate may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory and learning. They can also help stimulate blood flow in the brain.
Using imaging methods, researchers also found that dark chocolate with 70% cacao could improve brain plasticity, which is important for learning and even rewiring the brain.
When you feel a sweet tooth coming on, opt for brain healthy dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.
Avocados are not only delicious, they are extremely nutritious. Avocados are filled with unsaturated fats, fiber and lutein, which can improve cognitive health. Also, high blood pressure is linked to cognitive decline, and eating unsaturated fats may can help reduce blood pressure. According to one study, people who ate one fresh avocado a day saw a major improvement in their memory and problem-solving abilities.
Instead of “An apple a day”, it should be, “An avocado a day, keeps the doctor away!”
4. Green Tea
Green tea is one of the best brain healthy “foods” for nearly every aspect of brain health.
Firstly, it boosts brain functions, like alertness, performance, focus and memory.
Secondly, it contains L-theanine (an amino acid that can increase the neurotransmitter GABA), which helps reduce anxiety and improve mood. L-theanine also improves alpha wave frequencies, which stimulates you and gives you energy—but, unlike most caffeinated drinks, it also relaxes you at the same time.
Lastly, green tea is filled with polyphenols and antioxidants that can help protect the brain from mental decline, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Try swapping out 1 coffee for 1 green tea a day. The caffeine boosts alertness, the antioxidants protect the brain, and the L-thiamine helps you relax. It’s the perfect potion for ninja-like focus!
5. Wild Salmon
When it comes to the brain healthy foods, salmon is always at the top of the list. Salmon and other fatty fish, are rich in omega-3, which is a key building block of the brain. About 60% of our brain consists of fats, and half of that fat consists of omega-3 fats! So, you can’t miss out on omega-3 rich foods like salmon.
Furthermore, fatty fish helps build the brain and nerve cells that are necessary for memory and learning. It also helps ward off age-related mental decline and disease.
Salmon can even effect the brain matter itself. According to one study, people who ate fatty fish regularly had more gray matter in their brain—which contains the nerve cells involved in decision making, emotion and focus.
On the other hand, not getting enough omega-3 is associated with depression and learning impairments.
Other fish to eat include:
Omega-3 is essential to both cognitive function and mental health. Try to eat fatty fish twice a week for brain health. Omega-3 supplements are also available.