Nutritious Brain Foods
Healthy foods not only make your body healthier, they make your brain healthier and help it to work smarter too. If you put garbage in your body, you will reap the repercussions both physically, with poor muscle mass and weight gain, but also mentally, often with a depressed mood and a sluggish mind.
On the other hand, healthy snacks and healthy food feed and protect the brain.
When and how often you are eating during the day also affects how well your brain works. When your blood sugar begins to drop, as it normally does about 3-4 hours after a meal, your brain function begins to decline along with it. Glucose, or blood sugar, is the only fuel your brain uses. That doesn’t mean you need to eat high sugar foods, which can make the problem worse, but it does mean that you should eat regular meals throughout the day, and include some healthy snacks too.
The Brain Benefits of Protein and Fat In Your Diet
When talking about brain foods and in particular, amino acids from protein, think about serotonin, considered the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Before you can make serotonin, you need to eat tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein. This amino acid converts not just to serotonin, but also to melatonin, the hormone that helps you feel tired at bedtime. That may be why turkey, rich in tryptophan, has a reputation for making you feel sleepy, however good sleep and a diet rich in protein are both important for a healthy brain.
Another important food for good brain health is fat. Yes, fat is very important for your brain because your brain is nearly 60% fat! That’s why essential fatty acids are one of the most crucial molecules that determine your brain’s integrity and ability to perform. Essential fatty acids, those you cannot make in your body and must get from your diet, include Omega 3 fatty acids from fish such as EPA and DHA. Omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable oils are also essential, but most American get too many of these and not enough of the Omega 3’s.
Now that you know a little more about why some foods are great for your brain, why not incorporate these 5 super brain foods into your diet?
Top 5 Brain Health Foods
- Wild Fatty Fish:
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and lake trout are incredible sources of fatty acids. Farm fed fish are not as high in omega 3’s. Brain snacks might include salmon jerky, tuna salad on wheat crackers or even a small can of sardines. If you won’t eat fish, ask a registered dietitian or physician if a quality supplement containing 1000 mg total EPA and DHA would be right for you.
- Grass Fed Beef And Other Meat:
Grass fed beef is higher in Omega 3 fats, and is leaner than traditional grain finished beef. Meat is a complete source of amino acids, providing all 9 that you need to get from your diet. Brain snacks might include half a meat sandwich or a meat and vegetable kabob.
Yes, the lowly egg is very important for your brain! Eggs are one of the few sources of choline in the American diet. Choline is important for nerve conductions. The good news is that eggs are a cheap source of protein (amino acids) and hard-boiled eggs make an easy healthy-meal-on-the-go.
Nuts are a smart snack for brain health. In particular, walnuts are rich in DHA, one of the important omega 3 fats, which may help prevent cognitive decline in older adults. Other nuts are rich vitamins that nourish and protect the brain such as vitamin E in almonds and niacin in peanuts. A good healthy snack-on-the-go would be 1/3 cup of nuts.
Berries are tops for brain health. Researchers at Harvard Medical School noticed that eating blueberries and strawberries regularly (1/2 to 1 cup weekly) helped with reasoning and prevented cognitive decline. Berries contain antioxidants like anthocyanin that cross the blood-brain barrier and have beneficial activity in brain areas responsible for memory and learning. Try adding a variety of berries to your healthy diet.
Whole grains, rich in B vitamins, are also good for your brain, so starting off your day with a good breakfast such as this oatmeal recipe will help keep your brain running efficiently throughout the day. Taste test this breakfast recipe below to jumpstart your brain!
Berry Good for your brain Oatmeal Recipe
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries (or other fresh or dried berries)
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- Vanilla flavored almond milk
In a bowl, combine oatmeal and water. Microwave 1 minute and 30 seconds, or until thickened. Stir in dried berries, then top with nuts and a touch of milk.