Your brain is kind of important. As the command center for your body, it’s responsible for keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing, allowing you to move around, as well as how you feel and the way you think. Many would argue that there’s nothing more important.
That’s why it’s a good idea to do everything you can to keep your brain in shipshape.
Without a doubt, the food and drink you take into your body plays an integral role in maintaining your brains health, and can either improve or hinder mental abilities such as memory and cognition.
In today’s hyper-competitive world, everyone is looking for new ways to help them to function more effectively and efficiently. Having a healthy brain can do both of these.
This article lists foods and drinks that will help you to maintain a healthy brain and mental well-being.
1) Fatty fish
Sitting at the top of the list of foods that will help to boost mental acuity is fatty fish that’s rich in omega-3s. Omega-3s are essential blocks of healthy cell membranes in all cells throughout the human body, including the brain. Around 60% of your brain is composed of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 type. Omega-3s are used by the brain to construct nerve cells, so these fats are inextricably linked to learning and memory.
In 2017, a scientific study found that individuals with high levels of omega-3s had greater blood flow to the brain and nervous system. Researchers in the study also identified a link between omega-3 levels in the body and better cognitive abilities.
Another study discovered that people who ate broiled or baked fish regularly had more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter contains the majority of neurons that control decision making, memory, and emotion
A few examples of fatty fish rich in omega-3s include tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. Other excellent sources of omega-3s are flaxseed, soybeans, nuts, and other seeds.
Conversely, not getting enough omega-3s is associated with depression and impaired learning.
If you depend on coffee to get started in the morning, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear that it’s also good for your brain.
Coffee’s two primary components – caffeine and antioxidants – both help your brain.
Caffeine has been shown to exert a number of positive effects on brain function. They include:
- Improved mood: Caffeine has been shown to boost ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, glutamate, and GABA.
- Increased alertness: Caffeine keeps you awake and your brain alert by way of blocking adenosine – a messenger molecule that makes you sleepy.
- Increased concentration: A study discovered that when participants consumed one large coffee in the morning or small amounts throughout the day, they were more effective at tackling tasks which required a significant amount of concentration
The consumption of coffee over the long term has also been associated with a reduced risk of developing neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It’s possible that this may be – at least in part – due to the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee.
3) Berries (especially blueberries)
Many berries, especially blueberries, contain flavonoid antioxidants. Flavonoids are the largest group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) that are found in almost all fruits and vegetables. Blueberries and other deeply colored berries are rich what are known as anthocyanins, catechin, caffeic acid, and quercetin – all organic compounds which exert anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Antioxidants have been shown to fight against oxidative stress and inflammation – conditions which many suggest contribute to aging and disease.
Research indicates that that antioxidant compounds contained in berries can accumulate in the brain and exert the following positive neurological effects:
- Increase neuroplasticity, which assists neurons to form new connections, which in turn boosts cognitive abilities and memory
- Reduce disease causing inflammation and oxidative stress
- Improve communication between nerve cells
- Reduce or delay neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline related to aging
Antioxidant-rich berries that can help to boost mental acuity include:
4) Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate and cocoa are both packed with flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants – all of which are brain-boosting compounds. As is the case with berries, the flavonoids contained in chocolate accumulate in regions of the brain that are associated with learning and memory. Researchers assert that these compounds can enhance memory and assist in slowing down age-related mental decline
This claim is backed up by a number of studies.
In one study which included more than 900 individuals, those who consumed chocolate more often actually performed better in a number of mental tasks – some of which involved memory and recall – than participants who rarely ate chocolate.
In addition to boosting cognitive abilities and memory, chocolate is also a mood enhancer. Another study found that subjects who ate chocolate experienced increased positive feelings compared to subjects who ate crackers.
5) Green Tea
Like coffee, the caffeine in green tea plays a significant role in boosting brain function. But that’s not the only thing that makes green tea a brain-friendly beverage. Also contained within green tea is the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier in the brain and upregulate the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is linked to reduced anxiety and a feeling of relaxation. L-theanine has also been shown to increase the frequency of alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are generally associated with the feeling of relaxation without the feeling of tiredness.
If you’re looking for ways to optimize your brain’s functionality, consider trying the following:
- Intermittent fasting
- Getting enough sleep
- Drinking plenty of water
- Reducing stress via mindfulness, meditation, saunas, or yoga
- Reducing your intake of alcohol
- Exercising regularly