At some point or another, we’ve all tried to improve our diet, whether it was for health reasons, physical appearance, or both. We all aim to have that perfectly health lifestyle, but we often overlook the most complex organ in our body when considering what foods to eat. Our brain is in control not just of our thoughts and feelings, but breathing, heartbeat, senses, and much more. Increasingly more scientific research is showing that what we eat every day actually has a huge impact on our brain functions, affecting our moods, cravings, and overall mental health! The brain is always active, even when we are asleep, and requires a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to stay well-nourished and happy. What are the best brain foods you ask? Well, here are 6 of the best foods for maintaining a healthy mind and body!
Hemp Seed & Oil
Our brains actually require cannabinoids, which regulate most of the primary functions in our body including alertness, memory function, emotions, inflammation and cancer defenses. We can produce some of our own cannabinoids but perform best when consuming more from foods like hemp. Hemp's nutritional composition of its oil and protein contain all of the essential amino acids our body needs and in a uniquely perfect ratio (3.5:1~4:1) with over 400 phytonutrients.
Shelled hemp seed contains 33% pure digestible protein and is rich in iron and vitamin E as well as omega-3 and GLA. A recent report funded by the Canadian government states that hemp protein is comprised of 66% high-quality edistin protein and that hemp seed contains the highest percentage of this from any plant source in the world. Hemp also contains 3x more vitamin E than flax.
Turmeric is the bright yellow aromatic powder from the ginger family and is usually used for flavoring and coloring, and as a spice in Asian cuisines, especially India, like curry. Turmeric contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant curcumin which acts as a neuroprotective agent against numerous neurological disorders. Research has shown that it acts as protection for your brain against Alzheimer’s disease. India, which uses turmeric as an ingredient for their common food, is known to have the lowest rates of dementia in the world. Health experts believe that this is because of their consumption of turmeric as part of their daily diet in their lifetime.
Curcumin has even been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis in which the nervous tissues grow and develop. Curcumin also reverses some biochemical changes made within an aging brain. It binds to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, copper, zinc, and iron, and by doing so, there will be a counteraction to any of the neurotoxic effects these metals may give to our brains.
According to Steven Pratt, MD (author of Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life), blueberries help protect the brain from oxidative stress and reduce the chances of having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods which include vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber where all are responsible for capturing radicals that damage our cells in the brain to boost and regulate the blood and oxygen flow. Other than destroying these radicals, they rejuvenate brain cells to protect our brains from degeneration and stress, and from the adverse effects of a non-healthy diet like high blood pressure.
Walnuts are a good source of antioxidants, fibres, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, and omega-3s which are all essential for brain development and growth. The human brain is made of 60% structural fat so it requires high-quality fats like omega-3s, particularly DHA, to keep the brain fluid and flexible.
Research says that walnuts are the best nuts for improving cognitive performances, and prevent age-related illnesses. A research study at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center was conducted to study the lifestyle habits of 6,000 people who were unaffected by Alzheimer’s. It was found that those who have the most intake of vitamin E-rich foods have a lesser chances of developing diseases that are memory and age-related. Maybe there’s a reason walnuts kind of look like our brains….
Nowadays, avocados are made into spreads, jams, sandwiches and even ice cream! It is indeed a fatty fruit but it actually contains a monosaturated fat (healthy fat) and helps in regulating a healthy blood flow because it decreases LDL cholesterol – the bad cholesterol – and increases the HDL cholesterol – the good cholesterol – This prevents the hardening of blood vessels. According to a review published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2008, some nutrients, like folate, that are found in avocados can also improve one’s memory and concentration. Another study done in Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute has suggested that folate reduces the risk of a stroke.
If you noticed, coconut oil is often mentioned when talking about at-home healing methods. It’s almost as if there is nothing that coconut oil cannot do! According to a research by Dr. Mary Newport, just over two tablespoons of coconut oil (about 35 ml or seven level teaspoons) will help in restoring and renewing neurons, and nerve functions in the brain. Coconut oil consists of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) that convert the oil inside the body to ketones. Ketones are what fuel our brains. The MCT we put into our bodies go directly to our liver to release the newly-converted oil to energy
Coconut oil also works as a natural anti-inflammatory food. It helps prevent memory loss or any age-related illnesses or disorders, and destroys bad bacteria that stay in our stomach organs.
You might have started to worry that none of these foods will satisfy your taste buds but luckily, chocolate can actually be beneficial to our brain health. Dark chocolate is packed with magnesium which increases the production of endorphins and serotonin, and flavonols, which is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. A study published in Neurology found that dark chocolate decreased blood pressure, and could even lower the chances of having a stroke by 17%!It also contains small amounts of caffeine to improve mental alertness and short-term memory which is why a lot of students also eat dark chocolate while studying.
So those were some of the best foods for a healthy brain. Other superfoods include: eggs, sea vegetables, fermented foods, and leafy greens. It’s imperative to be conscious of the foods that we eat, because they can have a much bigger impact on our bodies than we realize. And remember, having a healthy body also means having a healthy brain!