Brain foods

What you eat has a serious effect on mental clarity and your brain's performance. These foods provide clean fuel and nutrients to optimize its functions.

Food for thought References

We’ve all had days where our thoughts are just too clouded and strained to be able to get anything done. Ever just sat at your work desk or in a lecture hall, just staring off into space, unable to focus or concentrate? Or a day where you just couldn’t be bothered to get anything done? What if you could remain alert more often and were able to focus on a task on command? Enter ‘brain foods’: snacks and ingredients that affect our concentration levels and productivity in positive ways, while having the added plus of being great stress-reducers. Our brains use up to 20% of our bodily energy each and every day. By adding more foods, vitamins, and nutrients catered to brain health and function to our diets, we can begin to form a plan of attack against any nutrition-induced mental lethargy and boost our overall energy levels.

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Food for thought

Generally speaking, what is good for our bodies is also good for our brains.

Sugars and fats are the best and fastest sources of energy for our bodies, but, for example, not all sugars are created equal. Short-chain carbohydrates can give us quick energy boosts that subside in power after just a short period of time, whereas long-chain carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy in more of a time-release fashion. This is due to how our bodies need ample time to break down those long-chain carbohydrates into smaller, more digestible pieces that will help balance and maintain our blood sugar levels.

Above and beyond just fats and sugars, our brains of course need even more nutrients and vital minerals in order to function at 100+%. The best food sources for brain maintenance and boosting are as follows:

Legumes

  • Legumes contain high amounts of good carbohydrates that help to give us energy and avoid cravings
  • Additionally, legumes contain lots of good vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and lecithin
  • Have you already heard about ‘lecithin’? It’s a phospholipid (fatty substance) and is important for cell membrane health. Lecithin contains choline, which is a messenger substance that keeps our stress levels down and maintains good nerve function

Fish and nuts

  • Nuts and fish are well-known as strong sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for full-steam functioning of our nerves and memory (when it comes to brain function; omega-3 fatty acids are also great for your skin)
  • Try to incorporate fish and nuts such as salmon or walnuts in your diet - walnuts go great with any kind of salad, for example!
  • Omega-3 fatty acid sources like these can help us control nervousness
  • Cashews and peanuts help us avoid stressful attitudes and give us much-needed proteins and energy
  • In general, fish and nuts really are the perfect brain foods, in that they contain other essential minerals, B vitamins, antioxidants, and choline

Berries, bananas, and apples

  • Bananas contain tryptophan, an important biomarker which we usually only hear about in the context of Thanksgiving turkey. When we consume tryptophan, it later gets processed into serotonin, which is one of the ‘happy chemicals’ that makes us feel elated
  • Apples contain a lot of vitamins and minerals; in particular, they offer a lot of vitamins E and C, which are both capable of protecting the body from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the healthy cells in our bodies
  • Berries, especially darker-colored ones such as blueberries, contain large amounts of anthocyanins, which is a type of antioxidant that plays an important role in protecting cells from damage. They also have the added benefit of helping us concentrate!
  • Generally speaking, if you want to avoid daily bouts of mental lethargy and unclarity, then adding a couple portions of fresh fruits to our daily meal plans can be a good thing

Adding enough fruits to our daily diets can be difficult and messy, but is easy to solve thanks to the following tips:

  • Go for smoothies. Smoothies can be tasty and very healthy, either in high-quality, ready-made varieties without additives or with your own blender at home. Plus, let’s face it - consuming large quantities of healthy, delicious fruits can be tiresome, so enjoying them in a smoothie helps us get all those essential vitamins and nutrients way easier
  • Alternatively, if you don’t have a blender or something similar available to process all those fruits, try this simple trick: portioning/cutting the fruit into small, bite-sized pieces. By having the fruits available in bite-size portions, chances are that they will be eaten faster due to easy, mess-free handling. On the other hand, if you leave fruit portions whole, there is a greater chance of them going bad, because no one wants to make the effort to eat a whole fruit

Avocados

  • Avocados have been long cherished as one of the most versatile ‘brain foods’. They are absolutely awesome, in that they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B1, B6, and E, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, iron, and lecithin
  • Try eating some avocado slices on a sandwich, in your sushi, or in your guacamole with chips to help fight poor concentration and brain fog

Broccoli

  • Broccoli contains plentiful iron and vitamins C and E, all of which help stimulate and protect the brain

Green tea

  • The ‘stimulant’ component of green tea is, just like with coffee, caffeine. However, green tea also contains theanine, which helps to cancel out some of the bad side effects of caffeine, such as the jitters. Caffeine and theanine, combined with good self-discipline, can work wonders at combating procrastination and seeing beyond the ‘mental fog’ we sometimes have, for example after lunch at the office

References

  • http://www.essen-und-trinken.de/brainfood/brainfood-power-fuer-kopf-und-koerper-1016196.html
  • http://www.nature.com/scientificamericanmind/journal/v18/n5/full/scientificamericanmind1007-58.html