When it comes to eating healthy, people can talk at length about foods that are good for the heart, foods that aid muscle building, and foods that promote weight loss. What is often overlooked, however, is how to eat for the most used body part of all—the brain. Here are some foods that can significantly boost brainpower, concentration, and overall performance.
Caffeine is an unbeatable brain booster. However, too much coffee can make you too rattled to think clearly. Excessive caffeine consumption disturbs sleep patterns and contributes to fatigue. So drink up, but consume your caffeine mindfully (i.e. ingest no more than 250 milligrams of caffeine a day, and no later than 2 P.M.).
Your mother was right; vegetables are awesome. Celery is high in luteolin, a flavonoid that is said to lower the rates of age-related memory loss. Inflammation in the brain is a leading cause of neurodegeneration, and luteolin has the ability to calm this by inhibiting the brain’s production of inflammatory cytokine molecules.
Research by Tufts University shows that eating blueberries may help repair nerve cell damage, fight short-term memory loss, and even help improve your loco-motor coordination and balance. Blueberries are easily available and taste incredible (especially in a smoothie) so you have no reason not to indulge in them.
Tomatoes are blessed with the potent carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene, both of which protect the fat in the brain from inflammation and harmful free radicals. What’s more, lycopene is also known to affect the genes that control brain growth, which can be useful in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are abundant in magnesium, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and tryptophan. This nutrient cocktail improves your concentration and induces the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that heightens your cognitive skills, uplifts your mood, and helps regulate your sleep cycle.
Beets or sugar beets are high in nitrates, which the good bacteria in our saliva turns into nitrites. Nitrites help improve circulation and facilitate the transfer of blood and oxygen to the brain, specifically to the frontal lobes, which are the parts of the brain that are affected in cognitive conditions like dementia.
We know it as the vegetable that gave Popeye the superhuman strength to fight back against bullies, but whether or not it makes you strong enough to bench press your own bodyweight, spinach packs a lot of beta carotene, folate, lutein, and vitamin K. It’s a true superfood for your brain that slows cognitive decline.
Cruciferous all-star broccoli comes loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients to keep you in tiptop mental shape. It has vitamin K that boosts cognitive activity, choline and folic acid that protect the memory, and carotenoids beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin that keep the brain inflammation-free.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack that satisfies as well as it nourishes, then grab a handful or two of walnuts. These nuts are brimming with vitamin E, melatonin, folate, and alpha-linolenic acid, protecting you from age-associated memory problems and dementia, and lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Bonus: they look like miniature human brains!
10. Dark Chocolate
Not all chocolates are created equal. There is the kind of chocolate that is sweet and delicious, but that also causes weight gain and diabetes, and then there is dark chocolate.
The cacao in dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which are compounds that possess remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities, as well as the ability to improve the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Not only that, dark chocolate contains theobromine as well as caffeine, both of which provide short-term brainpower boost.
As a rule, the higher the cacao content of your dark chocolate, the better it is for your brain and for the rest of your body. And while you’re at it, make sure to choose only high quality, fair trade dark chocolate made with a moderate amount of healthy natural sweeteners (raw honey, palm or coco sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, dates, blackstrap molasses, and stevia).
Building brainpower through a mindful lifestyle
While incorporating the above foods in your diet will definitely help increase your brainpower, another important factor in the brain health equation is sleep. Not getting enough sleep at night can lead to a serious impairment of your mental skills. Even if you do not see any detrimental effects of sleep loss in the short term, extensive research has shown that a sustained lack of quality sleep does take a toll on your brain in the long run.
One last thing: when buying natural ingredients and food to nourish your brain, take care to support farmer’s markets and shops that practice sustainability. Choose produce and goods grown and made locally, with a focus on organic, sustainable farming and an adherence to fair pricing and ethical labour practices. True and lasting consciousness involves being good and being kind—to yourself, to others, and to the earth.