Brain-Boosting Foods Slideshow
April 4, 2012
Wheatgrass, and other foods like broccoli, berries, and spinach, contain antioxidants that, as Kelly Aronica explains, are essential for brain health because they protect it from free radical damage. Note that to obtain the nutrients from wheatgrass, it must be consumed as a juice.
Foods like avocados or olive oil, which contain monounsaturated fats, can help minimize memory loss. Aronica notes an interesting study on the relationship between olive oil and memory in older adults.
Salmon seems to be the super fish these days, with its oft-touted heart-healthy benefits, but studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon, can help improve learning and memory functions in the brain. As Aronica explains, fats make up 60 percent of the gray matter of the brain, particularly DHA, an omega-3 fat. "Eating fish just once a week may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, and salmon has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids." For vegetarians, she notes that vegetable oils like flaxseed, soy, and canola are also rich sources of the fatty acids.
Because of the big push behind blueberries a few years ago, it’s a known fact that blueberries are high in antioxidants, which are essential for overall brain health.
Also found in spinach, red peppers, and summer squashes, B vitamins, according to Aronica, help manufacture and release chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. "The nervous system relies on neurotransmitters to communicate messages within the brain, such as those that regulate mood, hunger, and sleep."
Vitamin B12, often referred to as the "memory vitamin," is only found naturally in animal foods, so Aronica suggests vegans should be careful to use supplements. As she explains, its integrally involved in nerve function and found in yogurts, cheeses, salmon, shrimp, and beef.
7. Spinach or Kale
"I'd list dark leafy greens (spinach is probably my top choice, or kale) as one of the top foods for brain health," says Aronica. She explains that the huge antioxidant punch is the main benefit for the brain, but they are also powerhouses overall in terms of vitamin and mineral content.
8. Green Tea
Green tea is not only a great source of antioxidants, but it also provides a hefty amount of caffeine, which is good for coffee-turned-tea drinkers. Aronica adds that research has shown caffeine to improve cognitive function, focus, and concentration. Coffee and chocolate also have antioxidants, but probably aren't as strong of a source as green tea.
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With the conflicting evidence about egg yolks (Good for you? Bad for you?), Aronica says that for brain functions, they're not to be ignored. Choline, a building block from the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is involved in memory and is found in eggs, specifically the yolk.