The things we know about our brains have grown by leaps and bounds. In just the past 20 years, we’ve learned more about how the brain works than of all previous years combined.
For instance, we now know that a healthy brain continues to develop new neural connections throughout life (“neuroplasticity”). We also know that intelligence is not fixed. Not so long ago, scientists believed intellect was innate. An “If you got it you got it; if you don’t you don’t” kind of thing.
Which brings us to today’s topic: foods that make you smarter.
That’s right. Choosing the right foods to eat each day can boost your brainpower. Alternatively, eating junk facilitates a “garbage in, garbage out” response from our brain.
But you needn’t take our word for it. Here’s an excerpt from a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community health:
“A diet high in fat, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may result in lower IQ scores, while a diet rich in healthy foods packed with vitamins and nutrients may work in reverse.”
Here’s another one from a 2016 study undertaken by scientists at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign:
“Previous studies have found that a person’s lutein (found in spinach, and eggs) is linked to cognitive performance across the life span, [particularly] in the gray matter of brain regions … [preserving] cognitive function in healthy brain aging.”
The importance of the above two studies cannot be overstated. Nutrition affects the cognitive health (thus, intelligence) in people of all ages.
What this means for you…
We know you’re anxious to get to the brain-boosting stuff, so we’ll keep this short and sweet.
If you eat right, and “exercise” your brain (and body!), you can improve your cognitive health. By forming new neural connections, you can learn a new skill faster, feel better, live a happier life, or whatever you’d like!
Here’s are the 12 foods to stock up on if you want to give your brain a boost:
As mentioned in the first study, eggs are a rich source of lutein – a natural carotenoid. Lutein helps to prevent or slow cognitive decline in experimental studies.
Regarding brain power, eggs primary value is in their amino acid content. Eggs also assist learning and memory through assisting in the production of noradrenaline, dopamine, and GABA.
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse – literally – it is called a superfood by nutritionists and dietitians. It’s packed with folate, a nutrient that stimulates brain activity.
Spinach is an underrated source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for brain tasks such as learning, memory, and attention.
3. Fish Oil
About half of our 3-pound brain comprises lipids or fatty acids. Fish oil, of course, is rich in all types of fatty acids.
Omega-3’s have a profound effect on our brain’s structure and function. They also boost our cognition, memory and have anti-aging effects.
Bananas are another superfood, rich in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and B6. B6 helps produce the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA.
Maybe that’s the reason the Minions are so smart. Hmm …
5. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, which breaks down into glucose – the brain’s primary energy source. Because whole grains break down slowly, their energy-producing effects last for hours.
6. Dark Berries
Blueberries and raspberries are full of antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals. Antioxidants thereby encourage nerve cell production within the brain and body. Neurons, the brain’s “signaling” cells, require protection; and a handful of dark berries helps with this function.
Legumes contain grain seeds called pulses. These seeds are rich in all types of essential minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. They also include a bunch of B-vitamins, including niacin, thiamine, and folate.
Another superfood, avocados are saturated with healthy fats, vitamin E, carotene and lycopene (the latter two are antioxidants), and other important minerals.
Vitamin E serves some vital functions; not only is it a potent antioxidant, but ‘E’ is also a critical vitamin in producing the brain chemicals acetylcholine (learning and memory) and GABA (the “relax me” chemical.)
9. Coffee and tea
Coffee and tea are well-known for the stimulant effects, but they have plenty of other benefits as well.
Both beverages have protective effects on the brain. Many studies have shown that coffee and tea aids cognitive function and potentially slows the progress of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Seafood and crustaceans are both rich in Vitamin B12 and protein. B12 supports the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Shellfish are also rich in the minerals copper, iodine, lithium, manganese, and zinc.
11. Dairy products
As mentioned, the brain is about 50 percent fat. Deficiency in essential fats is linked to degenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis (MS).
When eaten in moderation, dairy products can drastically improve brain function. Yogurt, cheese, and milk all contain healthy amounts of calcium, magnesium, protein, and vitamin D.
12. Nuts and Seeds
There may be a reason why walnuts look like a miniature brain. Per numerous studies, walnuts are the most powerful nut or seed for brainpower and brain health. Rich in vitamin E and zinc, virtually any nut or seed can enhance cognitive skills and memory. Their properties also help prevent cognitive decline and promote healthy blood circulation.
The fact that nutrition helps brain health isn’t much of a surprise to anyone. However, only very recently did we find just how important a well-balanced diet is for not only brain health, but intelligence, memory, and other cognitive functions.
So, whether you want to boost productivity, feel happier, or give your brain an edge, stocking your kitchen with some of these foods is a great place to start!