Eating well is not only good for your physical health. When it comes to your brain, good nutrition helps your mental health too. The proper foods provide fuel and oxygen to your brain, promoting strong circulation and healthy neural connections.
Feed your brain right with these seven super nutritious brain-healthy foods.
Turmeric root is a yellow spice that is a main ingredient in Indian curry. It contains the compound curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Turmeric has been gaining favor among the researchers as one of the most powerful aids against inflammation related diseases such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease, and especially Alzheimer's. Curcumin protects brain cells by preventing the buildup of plaque and dissolving the abnormal proteins in the blood that contribute to cognitive decline. Not only has curcumin been shown to boost memory, it also stimulates the production of new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis.
And, check out this amazing finding about turmeric. A recent study on rats by psychologists at The City University of New York shows that the compound in turmeric, curcumin, might actually help erase bad memories by preventing the brain from storing fear. The psychologists trained rats to be fearful, then fed them turmeric and their fear response to the same stimuli was gone. The study suggests that turmeric may be a great boon for treating post-traumatic stress and other anxiety conditions.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially the Omega-3, 6 and 9, are crucial for healthy brain function, but our bodies don't manufacture them, so they must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. Good sources include linseed (flaxseed) oil, raw pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. EFAs help with circulation, the heart, bones and joints. The EPA and DHA in oily fish is a bioavailable form which means body can easily assimilate it. The best sources of oily fish include wild caught salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Increasing your DHA levels can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.
Antioxidants such as blueberries, acai berries
, strawberries and raspberries can boost your aging brain.
Research shows that the polyphenols in berries, which give them their deep-red or -blue color, activate proteins that eradicate damaged cells, breaking down and recycling the toxic chemicals linked to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other cognitive impairment such as dementia.
But berries do more than boost memory. Blueberries rank first among fruits for their antioxidant powers, strawberries are rich in vitamin C, and acai berries' antioxidant levels are nearly twice as much than many other fruits such as pomegranate. Also, acai berry skin is miraculously packed with essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, E, anthocyanin, another powerful antioxidant, is high in calcium and iron, rich in EFA Omegas 3,6, & 9, and a great source of fiber, all of which are great for your cardiovascular health, which helps prevent stroke.
Tomatoes are another great source of brain food. They contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that can help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.
Tomatoes are in a class of plant nutrients called carotenoids. These molecules safeguard fat in the body, which is very valuable for your brain function because your brain is made mostly of fat.
Tomatoes are a good source of another type of carotenoid, beta-carotene. Both lycopene and beta-carotene help eliminate free radicals, a root cause of inflammation. Lycopene plays a role in regulating cell growth, too, which is a helpful cancer preventative.
Beta-carotene has the secondary benefit of improving cardiovascular health, which goes a long way toward keeping blood flow to the brain which is so important for guarding your brain's neuroplasticity
Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and, although most studies focus on sage as an essential oil, it could be worth adding fresh sage to your diet too. Sage
's powerful taste and aroma refreshes the brain. Chop some fresh sage for salads or soups to add a zesty note to your next meal. Sage can also help lift depression, clarify your thinking and ease headaches.
Sage also has anti-inflammatory and powerful memory enhancing qualities. Clinical trials have shown even small amounts of sage to significantly boost memory recall. The root of the Danshen or Chinese sage contains compounds that are very similar to the drugs used to treat Alzheimer's disease, which makes it a safer alternative.
One of sage's antioxidants, carnosic acid, can even cross the blood brain barrier to halt free radical damage in the brain. Carnosic acid also increases our production of glutathione, another important antioxidant that improves circulation to the brain.
Sage also has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Plus, it's high in iron. Similar to other iron rich fruits and vegetables such as arugula, beans and apricots, sage makes a good alternative to meat in vegetarian or vegan diets. Lastly, sage has also been found to effectively relieve mild to moderate anxiety.
Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, a vital trace mineral for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of magnesium and phosphorous which, along with zinc, can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.
Several studies with pumpkin seeds have turned up another surprising finding. Pumpkin seeds can dramatically improve bladder function, which is great news for men with enlarged prostates.
Pumpkin seeds contain high concentrations of phytosterols, plant compounds that inhibit cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, thereby lowering the effects of unhealthy LDL cholesterol. In fact, among our most commonly eaten snack food nuts such as almonds and sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds have the third highest phytosterol content. Lowering LDL cholesterol and raising HDL cholesterol can play a pivotal role in heart protection and overall cardiovascular health which protects the brain too.
The primary fuel your brain needs for energy is glucose. However, your brain is able to run on more than a single type of fuel, one being ketones or ketoacids. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat into energy. Once believed to be a "bad fat," nutritionists now know coconut's medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) are a great source of ketoacids.
While your brain is quite happy running on glucose, recent studies suggest that ketones may actually help restore and renew neurons and nerve function in your brain, even after a brain injury. Coconut oil is a great choice for cooking. It has a high heat point, won't break down in heat or light or become rancid. It is also helps the body assimilate fat soluble vitamins, making it a very healthy fat indeed.
Load up on your favorite brain foods today, so you can have great memories and a really healthy brain tomorrow!