Healthy Eating

Boost Brain Power Through Diet

June 28, 2017

Most brain development is complete by age 5.  Now that is an amazing accomplishment!  Food plays a huge role in brain development, as well as maintaining high levels of cognitive functioning throughout our lives. Whether the brain needs an extra push during early development or needs to keep running at lighting quick speeds, eating these foods will do the trick.

 

Avocado: The healthy fat found in avocados, monounsaturated fat, helps build brain cell membranes and keeps them flexible. Avocados encourage healthy blood flow and oxygen to your brain. Avocados also contain folate, which helps keep the brain healthy and supports cognitive functions like memory (aka folic acid which helps prevent neural tube birth defects).

Ways to add it in: slice up avocado and put it on a turkey sandwich, add some to your favorite spinach salad, or make your favorite healthy guacamole recipe and dig in.

Berries: The antioxidants in berries, like blueberries or strawberries, protect the brain from free radicals created by the body and arising from outside factors such as pollution, chemicals, and cigarette smoke. As we age, free radicals can build up and create damage to our cells. Antioxidants neutralize them. Berries have also been shown to reduce inflammation, improving brain function into old age.

Ways to add it in: make a berry smoothie, add berries to Greek yogurt, or have the berries as a dessert after dinner.

Dark chocolate: The darker the chocolate the better for your brain (the rule of thumb is to look for 85% cocoa or more). Dark chocolate is high in flavanols, which have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Flavanols have been shown to reduce memory loss as well as helping boost your mood and relieving some symptoms of mild depression.

Ways to add it in: mix dark chocolate into pancakes, yogurt, or even eat dark chocolate bites as a treat.

Eggs: Eggs are high in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B and a nutrient called choline. Choline, found in the yolk of the egg, improves memory and cognitive functioning. Choline is needed in the transportation of messages from the brain to the nerves and muscles through the body. Research has found choline intake during pregnancy very important for fetal brain development.

Ways to add it in: hard boiled eggs are an easy on the go source of protein, make a breakfast omelet with some veggies, or even add eggs to a sandwich for a little extra protein at lunch or dinner.

Fatty fish: Wild salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring, contain omega-3s that are essential for brain function and contain anti-inflammatory substances. The recommendation is to eat fatty fish at least 2 times per week.

Ways to add it in: make fish tacos, top off a vegetable stir fry with some fish, or have some salmon on a bagel for breakfast.

Greek yogurt: The full fat version keeps brain cells healthy. The extra protein found in Greek yogurt, versus regular yogurt, helps keep your blood sugar level and helps with concentration.

Ways to add it in: use plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, mix berries and granola into the yogurt for a healthy snack, or add it to a smoothie for added protein.

Green vegetables: The folate found in spinach and kale, along with the many vitamins and antioxidants make this food group a huge brain booster. Remember, folate helps with memory and the other nutrients you find help new brain cells grow and stay healthy, fighting the natural process of aging.

Ways to add it in: Make pesto for pasta (nuts, olive oil, dark leafy greens), mix in with salad greens, or add it to sandwiches or blend it into a marinara sauce.

Nuts/seeds: Nuts and seeds pack a punch with vitamin E and omega-3s. The vitamin E reduces cognitive decline as you age. The Omega-3s in walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and unhydrogenated nut butters (ex. peanut butter and almond butter) reduce inflammation and boost cognitive functioning.

Ways to add it in: mix ground flax seeds or chia seeds into cereal, add nuts to a salad or soup, or dip fruit into a natural peanut butter.

Whole grains: Whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, supply constant energy for the brain. The brain is dependent on glucose for fuel, and since it can’t store glucose it relies on a steady stream of energy. Other foods that supply glucose to the brain are fruits and vegetables. Whole grains also contain a lot of vitamins and minerals which help our brain function at full capacity.

Ways to add it in: eat oatmeal for breakfast, add brown rice to a vegetable stir fry, and make your pasta whole grain pasta vs regular white pasta.

A note about Omega-3 fatty acids: 60% of the brain is made up of fat. We can only get omega-3 fatty acids from our diet.  Omega-3s are important for brain development and healthy functioning from pregnancy all the way to old age.  A large majority of brain development is finished by age 5, which means our kids need to get the right foods from the beginning. You probably remember those prenatal horse pills you had to take right? Most contain DHA (a fatty acid) because of its role in neurological development in-utero. More research needs to be done but there have been findings linking omega-3s to improved mental skills like thinking, remembering, and learning. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body, including the brain which can lead to dementia related diseases later in life.  Foods that are high in omega-3s include fatty fish (wild salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring), walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds.

Remember, healthier brains mean a healthier, happier, higher functioning family.

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Boost Brain Power Through Diet
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Boost Brain Power Through Diet
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Foods Kids and Adults Alike Should Eat for Brain Health.
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