Healthy Eating for Improved Memory and Concentration
Did you know your brain can process information as quickly as 268 miles per hour? (That’s faster than a Formula 1 race car.) Since it’s such a vital organ, it’s important to fuel it properly. Here are some superfoods for brain health and the benefits they provide.
Fuel for Your Brain
Like the rest of your body, poor nutritional choices can negatively impact your brain’s function. Give your brain the right nutrients to boost memory and focus:
As far as protein goes, salmon ranks pretty high for brain health. Fatty fish, like salmon, is high in omega-3 fatty acids that are critical for brain development and function. Additionally, these fatty acids have been found to lower the risk for heart disease, depression and arthritis. Other types of fish that are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are mackerel, herring, lake trout and tuna.
Eggs offer a host of healthy nutrients. As far as brain health goes, egg yolks are a good source of choline, which is associated with reducing inflammation and promoting brain function, like maintaining memory and communications between brain cells. Eggs are also high in tryptophan, an amino acid that’s a building block of serotonin — the “happiness” molecule – a side effect that is sure to put a smile on your face.
While all berries are good for brain health, the blueberry is crowned as king and could be considered America’s first superfood. Blueberries are bursting with antioxidants, specifically flavonoids. These antioxidants stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, resulting in boosted concentration. A study even suggests that they could improve brain function in those who have mild cognitive impairment.
Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables
Leafy greens, like spinach, kale and arugula, are rich in nutrients such as vitamin E and K, beta carotene and folate. Vitamin E protects cells from damage from free radicals. These properties have been suggested to prevent or delay cognitive decline in the aging population. Vitamin K has been shown to sharpen memory. Meanwhile, beta carotene helps slow down cognitive decline. Their antioxidants can also protect the brain from toxic free radicals.
Nuts like almonds, pistachios and macadamias each bring something special to the table. Almonds help improve memory, pistachio nut oils help preserve fatty acids and prevent inflammation, and macadamias contribute to normal brain function. Yet, the top nut award certainly goes to the walnut. Compared to other nuts, walnuts offer twice as many antioxidants, which counteract cognitive decline, and they are packed with DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, which helps fight inflammation.
Java lovers rejoice! It turns out that kick-start in your morning comes with many added benefits. Caffeine increases alertness by blocking adenosine, a chemical that makes you tired. Researchers from the National Institute on Aging also found that individuals who drank more caffeine performed better on memory tests. Since drinking too much can have adverse effects, sip in moderation.
Do you really need another excuse to snack on dark chocolate? Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidants, flavonoids and caffeine. Flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain, which can enhance memory. As for caffeine, that can help improve short term brain function.
Click here to learn more about nutrition’s role in your health.
- Colleen DeBoer, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, Clinical Nutrition Manager