We all know eating healthy can build a stronger, healthier body, but did you know eating affects your brain as well? This list of top super foods to build intelligence may help you get smarter, boost your memory and keep you alert throughout the day. They also can boost fetal brain development, help children build a higher IQ and improve school performance. Eating the right diet can help you stabilize your moods, fight depression and anxiety and even sleep better. Finally, they can reduce the loss of brain function associated with old age and may help to slow the effects of cognitive problems such as Alzheimers’ disease and dementia.
- Healthy oils: Healthy oils include foods many oils from vegetables, nuts and whole grains. The things all these foods share is vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that studies indicate may protect neurons and nerve cells. Studies are examining if Vitamin E can be used to help slow the deterioration of brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Be aware however, that while vegetable oils are healthy brain food, they are high in fat and can make you gain weight if consumed in excess amounts.
Source examples: Sources include olive oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, peanut oil and other plant-based oils. You can also get the benefits of these healthy oils from foods such as nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, cashews and other nuts. You can also eat nut butters such as peanut butter or almond butter.
- Fish and shellfish: Fish contains omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA. As a key fatty acid, DHA helps ours neurons to function normally, especially the brain’s cerebral cortex, the retina and even our memories. Children with higher levels of DHA often perform better on tests. People who don’t get enough DHA often show decreased cognitive abilities and may be at an increased risk for Alzheimer’s.
Source examples: Eat salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, trout, herring, oysters, mussels, clams, crab, squid, snapper, lobster, halibut, pollock, rockfish, shrimp and other fish and shellfish. Although not the best form, even breaded fishsticks contain some DHA for pickier eaters. For children or those who dislike fish, you can purchase flavored fish oil containing DHA.
- Other DHA-rich foods: If you just can’t handle fish or have allergies, there are other sources of DHA. You can also eat foods that contain alpha-linolenic fatty acid, which the body can use to make DHA.
Source examples: Eat seaweed, lamb, egg, beef and poultry for other non-fish sources of DHA. You can also eat ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, canola oil, soybeans or soy products, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, perilla seed oil, tofu, walnuts, walnut oil for for alpha-linolenic fatty acid.
- Dark leafy greens: Dark leafy greens are a great source of Vitamin E and folate (also called Vitamin B9 or folic acid). Both these are key for proper cell function, brain function and folate is especially important for brain development in fetal children.
Source examples: Eat spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens and asparagus.
- Berries: Berries can boost your brain health by fighting cognitive loss as you age in a few ways. First, berries contain high levels of antioxidants, which help to protect cells from harmful free radicals. Additionally, the antioxidants in berries can affect the way neurons communicate and prevent inflammation. That could improve motor control and help avoid damage to the brain that can decrease cognitive abilities, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Source examples: Eat strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and acai berries.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are important for brain function for a few reasons. First they provide a lot of energy. Did you know your brain uses the most energy of any organ in your body? It uses up to 20 percent of all the calories you eat, or about 300 calories per day for an average adult! Whole grains are important because they provide a hearty, steady supply of energy to the body which allows for a slow release of glucose, keeping you alert throughout the day. Whole grains also help with healthy blood flow, which also helps your brain function.
Source examples: Eat oatmeal, whole-grain bread, brown rice, barley, bulgur, buckwheat, popcorn, quinoa ,rye, sorghum, teff and wheat germ.
- Beans: Beans are an overlooked but valuable brain food. Beans are a great source of B vitamins, which must be eaten every day because your body is unable to store them. B vitamins help your body interpret genetic code. They also help your body make energy and stabilize blood glucose levels so your energy-dependent brain can function well. In particular, they help the nervous system and brain function by making neurotransmitters that pass signals between nerves and help cells communicate.
Source examples: Eat black beans, kidney beans, fava beans, lima beans, white beans, butter beans, chick peas (garbanzo beans, lentils and split peas.
- Foods to combat depression: There are even foods that can help you sleep better, love longer, feel happier, less anxious and more content. Serotonin, which can help your brain function properly and stabilize your moods, is made from tryptophan. While those with depression and anxiety can get help from medications and should speak with their doctor, it’s possible to eat foods high in tryptophan for a brain boost.
Source examples: Foods containing tryptophan include egg yolks, cheese, tofu, salmon, turkey nuts and seeds.
- Foods to help you sleep: Many people battle insomnia which can be highly damaging to your brain and physical and mental health. There are some foods that can help you sleep better and rest longer. Vitamin B6 is needed to make melatonin which helps your body sleep.
Source examples: To sleep better, eat fish, rice, cherries, yogurt, whole grains, kale, bananas, chick peas (garbanzo beans).
We hope you enjoyed our list of super brain foods that can help you live longer, boost memory, avoid cognitive problems, ease depression and anxiety and help you sleep better. For more brain boosting articles, check out our other articles.
Find out more tips and resources at our main homepage here: Brain Teasers.