As the body’s control center, your brain keeps your heart beating, lungs breathing, blood flowing, and muscles moving. It allows you to think, feel, and move, making its function the crux of the human experience.
Why, then, do people tend to exclude the brain from the conversation about physical health? “Exercising” the mind with learning and cognitive activities is essential—but so is feeding the brain the nutrients it needs. Just as you might change your diet to improve heart health or build muscle, you can alter your diet to better support the brain.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in keeping your brain in peak working condition. Consuming too much of the wrong foods, such as trans fats and sugar, can leave you feeling depressed and mentally foggy, while the right foods help you stay sharp and productive.
How can you alter your diet to support brain health? You can incorporate specific foods that are high in essential brain nutrients and minerals needed to protect, create, and repair brain cells into your everyday diet. Here are ten foods that can help improve brain power:
1. Fish with Fatty Acids
Many types of fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and herring, contain an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. Fat makes up nearly 60 percent of your brain, half of which is omega-3 fat, making the fatty acid essential to the nervous system’s proper functioning.
Research shows that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids can “counteract neurological and cognitive disorders” and may also have therapeutic effects against inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases.
Coffee contains two main components that help your brain: caffeine and antioxidants. The caffeine in coffee increases alertness and improves mood by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you sleepy, and boosting a few of the “feel-good” neurotransmitters like serotonin. According to the National Library of Medicine, drinking coffee daily may even have life-long benefits, like preventing cognitive decline.
3. Collagen Peptides
Collagen is a structural protein that acts as building blocks of your skin joints, bones, muscles, teeth, and other connective tissues. Studies show that consuming collagen peptides can not only strengthen these areas of the body but support brain health as well. According to a study investigating the effectiveness of using collagen to prevent Altziemer’s disease, “collagen is a promising natural biomaterial with various applications which has the potential to progress the development of therapeutic strategies in central nervous system injuries and degeneration.”
4. Leafy Greens
There’s a reason why kale is popularly called a “superfood.” Leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and collards contain brain-healthy nutrients such as lutein, vitamin K, beta carotene, and folate. Eating more leafy greens can significantly slow down cognitive decline and promote healthy brain function.
5. Ginkgo Biloba
Derived from the Ginkgo biloba tree (also known as the maidenhair tree), ginkgo is a herbal supplement known for its potential brain benefits. The supplement works by increasing blood flow to the brain, which, in turn, helps improve brain functions like focus and memory.
Several nutrients in nuts, like antioxidants, healthy fats, and vitamin E, explain their brain-health benefits like improved cognition, reduced chances of developing neurodegenerative diseases, and sharper memory. While most nuts are beneficial for your brain, walnuts have an extra edge as they also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
7. MCT Oil
Commonly extracted from coconut oil, medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, as the name suggests, contains pure, concentrated MCTs. Thanks to their shorter length, MCTs are easily digested, absorbed, and transported throughout the body. Thus, the fat acts as an instant source of energy. MCTs’ unique molecular size also allows the liver to convert them into ketones, which can serve as alternative brain fuel.
Berries offer a plethora of health benefits, some of them that are specifically for your brain. For example, flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their deep hues, also help boost memory.
9. Bacopa Monnieri
Found in the wet, tropical environments, Bacopa monnieri is a staple plant in Ayurveda medicine. Traditional Ayurveda practitioners have been using bacopa monnieri for centuries for various purposes, such as improving memory, treating epilepsy, and reducing anxiety.
Give Your Brain a Boost
Your brain is the powerhouse of your whole body, and it requires a lot of nutrients to keep humming. Consuming foods rich in healthy fats and nutrients are the best dietary steps you can take for your brain. Though eating the right food day in and day out can be a challenge, it’s vital to keep your brain in prime condition along with the rest of your body.