Supplements for the brain can be a great asset to our lives, but what about food? While supplements are optional, we all have to eat, so what’s the best brain food? Here is a list containing the best brain food known. These foods can help memory and cognition for both young and old.
Green tea may be considered an acquired taste, but the health benefits are vast, including benefits for brain health. Within green tea are powerful antioxidants that prevent the build-up of damaging proteins in the brain. This acts to protect the brain cells and neural pathways.
It also serves to protect the aging brain from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and the gradual loss of memory and cognitive function experienced by the elderly.
While it’s true that other forms of tea also contain antioxidants and can also be of benefit to the brain, green tea is by far the most effective. Researchers at the University of Newcastle in the UK investigated this. They concluded that green tea proved massively more successful at destroying toxins and continued cleansing the body for far longer than other forms of tea.
Olive oil is rich in a variety of fatty acids, which are great for the body. However, it’s also loaded with oleic acid. Oleic acid has been shown to slow down the destructive progression of adrenoleukodystrophy, a brain disease. It has also been shown to minimize the chance of getting hypertension, which is terrible for the brain.
A 2009 study into olive oil, subsequently published in the National Academy of Sciences Proceedings, determined that the body converts oleic acid into oleoylethanolamide. In colloquial English, oleoylethanolamide can be thought of as “molecular glue”. It’s a substance that makes memories stick in our brain and allows short-term memories to become permanent. In other words, it’s crucial to our memory formation process.
Blueberries are perhaps the best brain food. Blueberries are not only among the most vitamin C-rich foods known to man; they also contain anthocyanins and flavonoids. These antioxidants are directly beneficial to the memory centre of the brain or hippocampus.
Researchers at UK’s Reading University concluded that flavonoids strengthen nerve cells and regenerate damaged neurons. By doing so, the potency of signals between nerve cells is enhanced. Simultaneously, flavonoids also protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals.
A 2005 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience identified that blueberries might potentially boost our capacity to learn and strengthen memory and motor functions. Not only that, but the anthocyanins found in blueberries appear to aid new neuron growth within the amygdala – an area of the brain dealing with memory and emotional responses.
The merits of omega-3 fatty acids are well established but undoubtedly worth reiterating. Omega-3 protects and strengthens the myelin sheaths, which encase nerves, resulting in more efficiently sent electrical signals around the brain. This process of enhancing myelin sheaths means fewer nerves are damaged, and subsequent damage to cognition is reduced.
The most valuable fatty acid in omega-3 is docosahexaenoic acid (usually shortened to DHA). There is plenty of evidence that DHA is vital for the growing brain and the aging brain. It plays a significant role in how well the brain learns new information, stores that information as long-term memory, and reduces the inevitable cognitive deterioration experienced by the elderly.
Deepwater, oily fish are particularly loaded with omega-3. Salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel and sardines are among them.
I’ve already written about the value of choline for the brain. To put it briefly, choline is good for memory, protecting the elderly brain, protecting against conditions like Alzheimer’s, and acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter in the brain.
The number one source of choline is eggs. A large egg provides approximately 125 milligrams of choline, which is more than enough for a daily dose.
If eggs aren’t your favourite thing, then beef, liver, broccoli, nuts and beans also contain choline.
The primary source of fuel needed by the brain is glucose. The best way of getting that glucose healthily to the brain is by eating carbohydrates – and whole grains are about the healthiest way of getting those carbs. This is because our body breaks down the carbs in whole grains into glucose.
As opposed to specific other sources of carbs, the energy provided by whole grains provides the body with more consistent energy delivery.
Avocado is not one of the most popular fruits out there, perhaps because it’s one of the fattiest – but it’s a healthy type of fat that is good for the body and significantly contributes towards healthy blood flow. That healthy blood flow is good news for the brain. Conditions like hypertension are known to affect cognition negatively.
However, avocados are very high in calories, so they shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities or daily. Every so often, though, they’re a great option.
Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants will protect the brain from free radical build-up, which can do damage to the brain. If the idea of eating pomegranates doesn’t appeal, then try pomegranate juice – it’s surprisingly tasty.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are full of protein. Many – pumpkin and sesame seeds, for instance – are also high in tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid that helps the brain’s production of dopamine. This increases mood stability and movement coordination.
Another great seed for the brain is flaxseed. Flaxseed contains omega-3 and omega-6, which are suitable for the nerve cells in the brain.
This one’s a little tenuous, truth be told. Dark chocolate may or may not be a cognitive enhancer, but one thing is for sure: it’s loaded with “happy chemicals” – among them is phenylethylamine. When phenylethylamine is released, you feel great, and surely that’s good for the brain. Well, that’s my excuse for eating it anyway.