The Best Brain Food for Boosting Your Mental Wellness

Good brain food is critical to wellness. It's important for mental and cognitive health to nourish our brains with the proper balance of nutrients. Including quality brain food in your diet will help keep your mind sharp and clear for as long as possible. The brain responds powerfully to the right fuel, such as high quality carbohydrates, fats, and antioxidants from fresh fruits and vegetables. The following foods help prevent inflammation and degenerative diseases, and protect your memory, attention span, and overall cognitive function. Fish - Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be manufactured by the body, so we need to get them from our diets. Oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA. (Excellent plant-based sources of brain-boosting fats are walnuts, flax seeds, chia, and pumpkin seeds.) These EFAs help preserve brain function while also promoting good cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health. Not only do EPA and DHA decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, they also help promote the production of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, which helps us manage stress and regulate mood. Diet tip: Choose only wild fish. When eating salmon, wild Alaskan is best. Also, limit tuna to no more than six ounces per week to minimize mercury exposure. Berries - Fresh berries, particularly blueberries, are loaded with antioxidants, which help promote brain health and function. Blueberries are especially excellent for overall health: they're low glycemic, high in fiber, and have been positively linked to lowered Alzheimer’s risk. Evidence also suggests that blueberries help improve memory and protect against general cognitive decline. Diet tip: Eat a serving of blueberries every day. Whenever possible, buy organic berries. When out of season, organic frozen berries are a good option (great for smoothies). Other fantastic brain-boosting varieties include cranberries, blackberries, and cherries. Tomatoes - High in the powerhouse antioxidant, lycopene, tomatoes help protect against free radical damage in cells, helping to stave off dementia and other degenerative diseases. Diet tip: Lycopene increases when tomatoes are cooked. Opt for organic, low sugar tomato sauces, or try gently roasting your tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil. Avocados - Avocados are the highest in protein and lowest in sugar of any fruit, making them among the healthiest foods you can eat. Packed with vitamins C and B, and rich in folate and vitamin K, avocados are protective against strokes and blood clots in the brain. They also help improve memory and overall cognitive function. Their high vitamin E content fights the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Diet tip: Add about a quarter to half of an avocado to your smoothies. Avocados also make a great fat replacement for your favorite baked goods. Broccoli - High levels of choline and vitamin K help keep your memory healthy and sharp, making broccoli a terrific brain food. Just one cup of broccoli provides about 150 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Diet tip: Lightly steam your broccoli until bright green but still firm (about four minutes), and add to eggs, whole grain pasta, or as a side dish to your meal. You can also add raw florets to your salads, or serve with a veggie tray and a healthy dip. Dark Chocolate (Cacao) - Cacao is a great brain food loaded with flavanols, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, promoting robust circulation and blood flow to the brain. Diet tip: Opt for organic dark chocolate bars of 70 percent or higher to keep exposure to refined and added sugars to a minimum. Your best bet is 100 percent raw, organic cacao with no added sugar — this is a wonderful addition to smoothies, and great for healthier baking at home. Remember that eating for overall systemic health goes hand in hand with eating good brain food. While certain foods offer particular support for the brain (the above list is by no means exhaustive), a diet of whole foods, primarily centered on plants and fresh produce, will support your body and brain health in profound ways. What we eat is vital to sustaining memory, mental clarity, and cognitive function across our life spans.

 

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