It’s important to take care of that miraculous three-pound organ that serves as the master control center of the body, the brain. Monitoring and paying close attention to what you eat throughout the day can potentially have lasting benefits on the functions of the brain and aid in boosting memory and concentration. If these superfoods for the brain come to mind when you think of your mental health then give yourself a pat on the back and a blueberry or two because you’re definitely on the right track (blueberries are a superfood, by the way!)
The Benefits of Superfoods For the Brain
Superfoods are touted as offering an arsenal of benefits to one’s body from heart health and weight loss to being able to better ward off disease. This is largely due to their many impressive properties including antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The United Brain Association reports that compounds such as antioxidants, flavonols, polyphenols, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin E, and B vitamins can help to protect a person’s brain.
Antioxidants are important for our brains because they can help repair cells in our body that endure wear and tear over time. The brain sustains oxidation damage which antioxidants can help to reverse.
Beneficial Healthy Fats From Fish
Our brains mostly consist of fats, which brings us to the first food in the superfood line-up: salmon and other fatty fish. Salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and kippers are all packed with nutrients and benefit the brain because of the fatty properties of these foods, which is beneficial since the brain consists largely of fats. These fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The most effective omega-3s are EPA and DHA. The National Library of Medicine states that DHA is most beneficial to pre and postnatal brain development whereas EPA influences behavior and mood.
According to Healthline, about 60% of your brain is made of fat, with half of that being omega-3s. Omega-3s are significant in that they help to build brain and nerve cells and promote learning and memory. The fatty acid is also shown to slow age-related mental decline and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Generally speaking, fish is very good for one’s health, and studies reveal that consuming fatty fish can add more gray matter to the brain. Within the brain, gray matter contains most of the nerve cells which control a person’s decision-making, memory, and emotion.
Coffee As Brain Fuel
Coffee has two main components that are good for your brain: caffeine and antioxidants. The caffeine increases alertness, improved mood as well as sharpened concentration. It promotes alertness by blocking adenosine which is a chemical messenger that causes sleepiness.
Caffeine is also thought to boost neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which improves a person’s mood and makes them feel happier. A study has also revealed that either drinking a large cup of coffee first thing in the morning or taking small sips of coffee throughout the day helps to improve concentration.
Drinking coffee is linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, Healthline also reports. These benefits are thought to be caused by the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee.
With Berries In Mind
Dark berries, like blueberries and cranberries, consist of anthocyanins which provide health benefits for your brain. Anthocyanins are a group of plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Research also reveals that blueberries may help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals and could reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Tufts University has gathered evidence that also suggests eating blueberries can aid in improving short-term memory.
It has also been discovered that some of the antioxidants in blueberries help brain cells to better communicate with one another. Antioxidants generally act against both oxidative stress and inflammation, both are conditions thought to cause brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
Broccoli, A Green Food You Can Depend On
Powerful plant compounds and antioxidants are what make this next brain superfood a winner. Broccoli provides over 100% of a person’s recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin K in a single one-cup serving. Vitamin K is fat-soluble and key to forming sphingolipids. Sphingolipids are a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells and key in brain development and functions, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information. Studies performed among older adults indicate that increased intake of vitamin K boosts memory.
This amazing vegetable is also packed with plant compounds which likely help to protect the brain through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Turmeric, The Other Kind of Gold
A richly colored yellow spice, turmeric is similar in appearance to ginger and has recently become very popular among health food enthusiasts due to its potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties of turmeric have been determined by numerous studies to benefit the brain in several ways. Benefits include improved memory, improved depression symptoms, and aid in the growth of new brain cells.
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, may help improve memory in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is thought to help clear amyloid plaques in the brain, which is characteristic of the disease.
Consuming turmeric improves mood by boosting both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Curcumin is so effective for improving mood that one study determined turmeric to be just as effective as a prescription antidepressant over a six-week period.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), curcumin enhances the level of neurotrophic factors including brain-derived neurotrophic factors or BDNF. Neurotrophic factors are a family of biomolecules, mostly consisting of peptides or small proteins that promote growth, survival, and differentiation of developing as well as mature neurons.
Additionally, due to the low molecular weight and polar structure of curcumin, it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and so can directly enter the brain and benefit brain cells.
University of California Los Angeles offers more facts about the health benefits of turmeric for your brain.
And Did You Mention Chocolate?!
Yes, that’s right, dark chocolate is also good for your brain, despite all the flack sweets have endured over the years. Keep in mind that in order for chocolate to be considered dark chocolate and provide health benefits, it is recommended that it consists of at least 70% cocoa beans, Healthline confirms. The sweet superfood is also linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and, you guessed it, improved brain function.
If you’re looking for even more reasons to love the sweet snack, check out more interesting facts about chocolate’s benefits from University Health News.
So next time you take a bite, take a minute to ask yourself, is this going to help make my brain better, stronger, and healthier? The choice is yours and you know what to do. Just remember, there is always a superfood within grasp to help push you closer to being a better, healthier you.
To learn more check out the United Brain Association’s list of the top 10 superfoods to help power your brain.