While it is well known that proper nutrition is the key to a healthy body, a great deal of research has demonstrated the tremendous impact foods have on our brain health. Just as our heart, lungs, and muscles require nutrients to function optimally, so does our brain. Research suggests that what we eat can potentially influence what we remember and the likelihood of developing dementia later in life. What’s even more alarming is that much of the foods consumed in our society, take for example a burger and fries, which are extremely high in cholesterol and fat, are not only the root cause of the most fatal diseases, but have been associated with an increase in the formation of beta-amyloid plaques; the protein clusters which have been associated with the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Although forgetfulness has been assumed to be a common characteristic of the aging process to some degree, taking the initiative to incorporate nutrient rich “brain foods” in your daily diet has been evidenced to boost cognitive functioning, including memory, concentration, attention, and focus, while slowing down the brain’s decline. Improve your chances of maintaining brain health by incorporating the following foods in your daily nutritional protocol:
Beets have been shown to improve memory, focus, and concentration. Naturally high in nitrates, which dilate blood vessels, beets increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain, enhancing overall mental performance. Additionally, beets are high in the vitamin choline, boosting the memory forming neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
Carrots have been shown to reduce inflammation (specifically neuroinflammation) and restore memory. Carrots are high in luteolin, which has beneficial neuroprotective effects, reducing the risk of age related memory loss and boosting overall brain health. The additional antioxidant properties in carrots, including beta-carotene, provide energy and protects against neurological disorders.
Research suggests that bananas play a key role in supporting important cognitive functioning, including focus and memory, while simultaneously regulating mood and appetite. The high levels of potassium found in bananas helps deliver oxygen to the brain, keeping your brain sharp. Additionally, the magnesium found in bananas promotes proper electrical activity between nerve cells in the brain as well as ridding the brain of a byproduct of protein metabolism – ammonia. By reducing the ammonia levels in the brain, magnesium improves your capacity to focus and pay attention.
Also known as “brainberries,” blueberries have been linked to reduced levels of oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of age related cognitive decline. Research indicates that diets rich in blueberries improved performance on learning and memory tasks. One study demonstrated that after just 12-weeks of daily, moderate amounts of blueberry consumption, participant performance on memory tasks significantly improved. Moreover, the high antioxidant properties contained in blueberries have powerful neurological implications, optimizing brain health by combatting free radical formation that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.
Avocados are high in folate, which is critical to the maintenance of proper cognitive functioning, including memory and concentration. Loaded with monounsaturated fats, otherwise known as the “healthy fats” and vitamin K, avocados also lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) and thus prevent the hardening of blood vessels, improving blood flow to the brain and reducing the risk of blood clots in the brain (stroke).
As a dark, leafy green vegetable loaded with vitamin E, Spinach has been shown to improve cognitive functioning. Vitamin E has been shown to increase brain tissue and release dopamine, which controls information flow to the brain. Spinach is also high in lutein, folate, and beta-carotene, nutrients that have been correlated with reducing the risk of dementia and age related cognitive decline.
Combining these plant-based, nutrient dense foods into your daily diet will undoubtedly enhance not just your cognitive performance and productivity, but your overall health and well-being. Having a diet rich in plant-based, whole foods provides us with the necessary nutrients that heal us, provide us with ample amounts of natural energy, and enable us to successfully accomplish our day to day tasks. Our brain is the control center of everything, isn’t it about time we feed it the fuel it requires to function optimally?