Your brain is a powerful machine, and like all powerful machines, it needs the right fuel to run at peak efficiency. We’ve long known that what we eat affects our bodies’ health and well-being and research increasingly indicates that eating healthy meals also affects how our brains function. The brain runs on glucose and also requires healthy fats that contain omega 3s and omega 6s for memory, mood, and to stave off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Below are some brain-boosting foods to add to your healthy meals.
Avocados provide monounsaturated fats as well as omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids that help increase blood flow to the brain, reduce cholesterol, help in the absorption of antioxidants, and protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals. They also contain potassium and vitamin K, both proven to protect the brain from the risk of stroke.
Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides that the body can use for energy, giving the brain more glucose to use. Coconut oil may also have a beneficial effect on blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol—and if it benefits circulation and the heart it benefits the brain. Its anti-inflammatory properties play a role in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. However, their fiber content slows absorption, providing the brain a steady stream of glucose with a lower risk of blood sugar spikes. Beans and legumes also provide essential omegas and folate—a B vitamin important to brain function.
These small little berries are antioxidant workhorses. They protect the brain from oxidative stress and damage that can cause premature aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. They also contain flavonoids that facilitate communication between neurons, improving cognitive functions such as memory, learning, reasoning, verbal comprehension, and decision making. Dark berries such as blackberries, açai, and goji berries also boost brain power when included in healthy meals.
Broccoli provides calcium, B vitamins, vitamin C, beta-carotene, fiber, iron, and vitamin K, nutrients that keep the blood flowing well, protect the brain from free radicals, and remove brain-damaging heavy metals.
These seemingly innocuous little seeds pack a punch by providing soluble and insoluble fiber as well as omega 3 fatty acids. In addition to helping regulate blood glucose levels, they aid in hydration, are anti-inflammatory, and contain many antioxidants.
Dark chocolate contains flavonols that improve blood vessel function, which then improves memory and cognitive function. Full of antioxidants, chocolate can also help ease pain and improve mood.
Walnuts and almonds are good for the nervous system and the brain. They provide omegas 3 and 6, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. Studies point to Vitamin E as protecting the brain from many types of dementia and generally improving overall brain power.
A seed, not a grain (gluten free), quinoa is a great source of fiber and complex carbohydrates that provides essential glucose to the brain. In addition, quinoa is a good source of iron (keeps the blood oxygenated) and B vitamins that help protect blood vessels and balance mood.
Red cabbage is full of polyphenols that benefit both the brain and heart. It also contains cancer-fighting glucosinolates.
Spinach can delay or prevent dementia. Its nutrients prevent cancer cell growth, damage to DNA, and tumor growth, in addition to slowing aging of the brain. In addition, it is a rich source of vitamin E and folate.
Whole grains are packed full of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and some omega 3 fatty acids, whole grains help prevent damaging sugar spikes, blood clots, high cholesterol, and more. In addition, they contain B vitamins that help increase blood flow to the brain and elevate the mood.
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