10 Foods for Brain Health
I’m sure at some point in your life you’ve used the phrase “I have a gut feeling about this” or “I have butterflies in my stomach”. Did you ever wonder why these sayings involve our brains and our stomachs? Well as it turns out, our stomach (or gut) is really our “second brain”, and every day we are learning more about this gut-brain connection.
Not only does our gut produce hormones to help digest food, absorb nutrients, and support regular bowel function, it also produces neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that impact our psychology and brain function.
As we age, we are all at risk for brain degeneration, so it only makes sense to do everything possible to care for our brain. The foods we choose could be the most significant variable we can control to enhance health, strength, and functionality of our brain. This ultimately requires taking out less healthy choices- processed foods (sugar, trans fats, unpreferred ingredients) and putting in more healthful options- foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and good fats- the best brain foods!
Here are 10 brain foods that should be part of your kitchen and everyday eating pattern:
- Avocados– These are packed with monounsaturated fats, keeping blood glucose levels steady. They also contains vitamin K and folate, protecting against stroke, as well as improving memory and concentration. They are also rich in B vitamins and vitamin C, which need to be replenished daily.
- Blueberries– These help reduce inflammation (a culprit in nearly all brain degenerative disorders), and are packed with brain-protective antioxidants. Organic berries are preferred.
- Broccoli– High in vitamin C, vitamin K, and sulforophane, a chemical that aids in free radical control, lowering inflammation, and the detoxification process.
- Coconut Oil– Provides saturated fat, a crucial nutrient for the integrity and function of brain cell membranes. Coconut oil also has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and some antioxidant properties, improving the ability of neurons in the brain to utilize energy while reducing the production of free radicals.
- Egg Yolks– These are rich in choline, a precursor chemical for one of the most fundamental neurotransmitters- acetylcholine. Eggs also contain cholesterol which is an important component of brain cell membranes. Organic free-range eggs are preferred.
- EVOO– Extra virgin olive oil contains antioxidants known as polyphenols, which are powerful brain protective antioxidants.
- Salmon– Atlantic wild caught salmon (not farm raised) is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids keeping our brain running smoothly. DHA plays a critical role in not only maintaining healthy neurons (brain cells), but also aids in stimulating the growth of brain cells in the brain’s memory center!
- Turmeric– A super spice known for its healing properties and one that has been used throughout centuries. Turmeric has great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, boosting your immune system and improving brain oxygen intake.
- Green Leafy Vegetables– Variety, variety, variety! Dandelion greens, kale, swiss chard, and spinach are loaded with nutrients beneficial for brain health- vitamin A, K, C, potassium, iron, folate, lutein, and prebiotic fibers that help the growth of brain supportive gut bacteria.
- Dark Chocolate– Rich in antioxidants and possesses anti-inflammatory properties due to its polyphenol content. This can also help improve blood flow to the brain. Before getting too excited thinking that all chocolate is the same…nope! Most of the chocolate at your local supermarket is highly processed with little to no benefits. You want to go for minimally processed chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa (or higher). The darker the chocolate the more benefits!
The list does not end there! Other foods to consider include nuts, seeds, and herbs like rosemary. The bottom line: choose whole foods, plenty of variety, and minimize your intake of unhealthy options. For added brain health support, try incorporating the foods mentioned above and work towards cultivating your best brain ever!
Basilia Theofilou is a contributor on our blog as well as one of the nutrition advisors here at PreviMedica. You can read more about her here.