Secret ingredients that can make you smart, outsmart others and help to flash your big intellect around.
(Or, at least, food choices that play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks including memory and concentration).
While there isn’t a magic pill to boost brain power or prevent cognitive decline. Nutritionists agree that the most important strategy to keep your brain healthy is to follow a dietary pattern that includes getting protein from plant sources and fish, choose healthy fats, and eat lots of different types of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Research shows that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels, including green veggies, fatty fish, berries, tea and coffee and walnuts.
Green, leafy vegetables
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene.
Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.
Broccoli is high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving.
This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells.
Research links diets high in vitamin K with a better memory.
About 60% of the brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is some sort of omega-3.
Fatty fish are abundant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, healthy unsaturated fats that build brain and nerve cells, and are essential for learning and memory.
Omega-3s have been linked to lower blood levels of beta-amyloid—the protein that forms damaging clumps in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Not getting enough omega-3s has been linked to learning impairments and depression.
General advice is to try to eat fish at least twice a week, and to choose varieties that are low in mercury, e.g. salmon, cod, sardines and pollack.
If fish is unavailable to you, then consider Omega-3 supplements, or omega-3 sources including flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts.
Research shows that Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give berries their brilliant hues, help improve memory.
In a 2012 study published in Annals of Neurology, researchers found that greater long-term intakes of berries were associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older women.
In general, higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, appears to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.
Tea and coffee
The magic (caffeine) in your morning cup of coffee or tea offers more than getting your day started and providing a quick and easy concentration boost.
In a 2014 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants with higher caffeine consumption scored better on tests of mental function. Other research has shown that caffeine consumption in moderation might also help solidify new memories.
Although they are relatively high in calories, nuts are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats, and walnuts in particular are known to improve memory.
Walnuts are high in a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Diets rich in ALA and other omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to lower blood pressure and cleaner arteries.
Additionally, turmeric, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate may also be key brain boosting ingredients:
Turmeric – the active compound curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which helps the brain. Research studies have shown that turmeric helps to reduce symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Pumpkin seeds – rich in many micronutrients that are important for brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Pumpkin seeds are applauded as little powerhouses of nutrients and health benefits.
Dark Chocolate – the flavonoids in chocolate may help protect the brain. Numerous studies prove that eating chocolate could boost both memory and mood.