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7 Best Foods for Brain Health

7 Best Foods for Brain Health
Eating well is not only good for your physical health. When it comes to your brain, good nutrition helps your mental health too. The right foods with the right nutrients provide fuel and oxygen to your brain, promoting strong circulation and healthy neural connections. Feed your brain right with these seven super nutritious brain foods.

1. Turmeric

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 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.

2. Oily Fish

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 the body can easily assimilate it. The best sources of oily fish include wild salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Increasing your DHA levels can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

3. Berries

Antioxidants such as blueberries, acai berries, strawberries and raspberries can boost your 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.

4. Tomatoes

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.

5. Sage

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 easing 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.

6. Pumpkin Seeds

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 phosphorus which, along with zinc, can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis.

Pumpkin seeds contain high concentrations of phytosterols, plant compounds that inhibit cholesterol absorption in the small intestine, thereby lowering the effects of unhealthy 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 cholesterol levels can play a pivotal role in heart protection and overall cardiovascular health which protects the brain too.

7. Coconut Oil

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. 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 ketones.

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 also helps the body assimilate fat soluble vitamins, making it a very healthy fat indeed.

If you’re interested in more healthy eating tips and recipes, check out our course Healthy Eating TIps: Easy Vegan Recipes. Try out these brain foods and let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Written by Kim Alyce Steffgen
With a background in journalism and marketing communications, Kim's wordsmithing reflects a love of language that brings spice to many ads, articles, banners, and videos. To that spice she adds her passion for herbs, plants and alternative health.
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