As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat”. If you fuel your body with healthy, balanced, nutrient-rich foods, you will be healthier, stronger, and may live a longer life. It’s not just about physical benefits, as switching to a healthier diet could also make you more focused, more productive, and much happier. With that said, let’s look at some of the foods that can boost your brainpower.
The term “superfood” has been overused and it doesn’t actually have a strict definition. However, it usually refers to a food that is nutrient-rich and is thought to provide a number of health benefits. Everything from leafy green vegetables to beef broth has been included in this category, but berries are of the most common foods classified as “super”. Acai berries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries—these foods are nutritional powerhouses and some of those benefits could aid with cognition. Take blueberries as an example. There are studies suggesting that these little fruits could help to improve memory, reduce depression, and increase learning capacity in older adults. Other studies have suggested that blueberries could greatly improve cognitive function in schoolchildren, and we’ve even seen similar studies performed on high school and university children. But blueberries don’t have a magic ingredient that is unique to these North American fruits. In fact, it’s believed that the flavonoids found in blueberries are what makes them so potent. One such group of flavonoids are known as anthocyanins. These compounds have been linked with a host of cognitive benefits. They provide blueberries with their distinctive blue/purple color and are also found in many other black, red, and purple berries.
Turmeric is a cheap and abundant spice. It’s also one of the hottest superfoods out there right now, and the research is incredibly exciting. It suggests that turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and could also possess anti-cancer benefits, but it goes much further than that, as this root could help you with cognition, as well. A large meta-analysis looked at the benefits provided by the spice’s main active compound (curcumin) in the treatment of depression. It found that it could “improve depressive and anxiety symptoms in people with depression”, although it stated that further studies would need to be conducted before conclusions could be drawn. Other studies have found that it could help to boost key chemicals in the brain that support the growth of new brain cells, and there is no shortage of studies highlighting its potential in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The great thing about turmeric is that these benefits exist regardless of the form that you consume. However, it’s worth noting that a little black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin and that most studies are conducted on extracts of curcumin (often with the addition of black pepper) and not with turmeric root/power. Some experts also recommend consuming turmeric with a little fat (such as milk), which is why it’s often added to milky lattes.
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Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s pretty much universally despised by children (and some adults), but if you can tolerate the taste, it will repay you with a variety of health benefits. It’s incredibly high in vitamin K, which is important for brain development and memory, and it’s also high in protein, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds. All of these could help to support brain health while keeping your head clear and your mind focused.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts are calorie-dense and seeds can be a nuisance to eat, so they are often overlooked. But these little foodstuffs are nutritional powerhouses and should be added to your diet. Seeds and nuts contain a wealth of minerals and vitamins that you might be lacking in your diet, including magnesium, copper, and zinc, all of which can support optimal brain health. They are also high in essential fatty acids and protein. If you’re a woman, you may benefit from the iron content, as well. Many meat-eaters, and men in particular, get more than enough iron, but if you’re a woman with heavy periods or you stick to a vegan diet, you could be seriously lacking in this nutrient. If that’s the case, you may experience frequent “brain fog”, which can make it difficult to concentrate.
Eggs are a great source of many essential nutrients, but you have to consume 2 or 3 of them to get close to your recommended daily intakes. 2 whole eggs contain around a third to a half of your daily requirements of choline, a nutrient that has been linked to a host of health benefits. You’ll also get nearly half of your daily recommended allowance of selenium, a quarter of vitamin B12, and a third of vitamin B2. You will get a dose of phosphorus, B5, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, calcium, and B6 as well. In addition, those two eggs will give you around 15 grams of protein and 10 grams of healthy fats.