8 Foods to Improve Brain Function
When you embrace the concept that food medicine, you realise just how important it is to fuel your brain with the right nutrients. Your brain is the "command centre" that controls vital body functions, your thoughts, emotions and ultimately the quality of your life, so it pays to take care of it.
As we age, the brain is constantly under threat from toxins that can impact its function, such as:
- Aluminium (cooking utensils, anti-perspirant)
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Refined Sugars
- Food Additives, Chemicals and Preservatives
- Mercury (from many dental fillings)
- Hard alcohol
- Prescription drugs
Removing these invasive toxins from your lifestyle is a great first step, but adding in the right foods is just as important.
From berries to nuts to cruciferous vegetables, there are a myriad of plant-based foods that can help support healthy brain function, as well as boosting your memory, focus and concentration, whilst protecting your brain from degeneration and decline.
Blueberries have long been considered a superfood, but it’s not just because they taste delicious. These little blue berries improve brain function, among many other benefits, and can actually reverse the loss of short-term memory that happens as we age.
The flavonoids in berries are what give them their brilliant colour, but it’s also what helps protect our brains as we get older. Blueberries are especially good for the brain but all berries can help. Try eating a serving of berries a day (including some blueberries) to help improve brain function and protect it from age-related decline.
2. Raw Nuts
Raw Nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans, are pure brain food. Not only do they look like specific parts of the brain, the healthy fats deliver vital nutrients that support optimum brain function and memory.
Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to break up lipofuscin plaque in the brain, whilst also protecting your heart health and improving blood flow and thereby improve brain function too.
Almonds look just like a part of the brain called the Amygdala, which is considered to be part of the brain's limbic system, where memory is stored. They also lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and are packed with nutrients such as protein, vitamin E, potassium and magnesium.
Snack on raw nuts regularly, throw them in salads and consume organic nut milks and you'll go a long way to supporting healthy brain function.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, brussel sprouts and asparagus. The name cruciferous comes from the latin word crucifix, because the blossoms of these plants resemble an equidistant cross.
When you look at these foods, you'll notice that they have stems and branches that mirror the dendrites and structure of the brain. It's no accident that they look this way and that mother nature delivers these foods to support healthy brain function.
Cruciferous vegetables also provide a host of phytonutrients, including Vitamins A and C and minerals such as folate, known for their powers in reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of cancer. They are rich in fibre, low in calories, meaning they'll fill you up but won't cause you to gain weight.
One of nature's most perfect versatile foods, avocados should be a staple of any healthy diet.
Rich in folate and good fats, Avocados are known to support healthy brain function and to help prevent degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia.
Avocados are also full of potassium, which together with the omega-3s and oleic acid, can help to reduce blood pressure that supports the quality of blood flow to the brain.
The magnesium content in Avocados can assist to balance mood and lower depression which can be a function of toxicity in the brain. Avocados also contain antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress to help fight off disease and good fats to support healthy digestion.
Learn more in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Good for Inflammation, Brain & Heart Health.
Include avocados in your diet regularly - add them to salads, on their own with salt and lemon juice, prepare guacamole or even add 1/2 a ripe avo to a green smoothie.
5. Dark Chocolate
If there’s ever been a reason to eat dark chocolate, it’s to protect and improve your brain function.
Derived from raw cacao, not only is organic dark chocolate a healthy treat, it’s choc full of antioxidants that help protect your body from oxidative stress. By consuming dark chocolate or raw cacao, you assist your body to fight off free radicals and protect from illness and dis-ease, especially as you age.
The key nutrient in cacao are the Flavanols which have been studied for decades. They have been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow to the brain and heart, prevent blood clots and fight cellular damage
When it comes to chocolate, be sure to choose only raw dark chocolate, not the big brand commercial varieties of chocolate - they're not the same! You can also add raw cacao powder to smoothies and raw deserts as a treat to benefit from this wonderful, healthy promoting, mood-boosting food.
6. Whole Grains
Whole grains are an important source of nutrients, but they also help protect and improve your brain function. The B vitamins in whole grains actually help reduce inflammation in the brain that can affect cognitive function and memory. As well, whole grains improve heart health and blood flow, which help increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Swap out any refined carbohydrates for whole grain versions, and you’ll not only stay healthier and lighter, but also get in crucial nutrients for brain health.
Legumes should be a part of any healthy diet because they are loaded with protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Legumes, which include various beans like kidney, cannellini and borlotti, lentils and chickpeas, are nutritional powerhouses that deliver so many health benefits, including supporting brain function.
Legumes and beans are incredibly healing to the gut, which directly affects the brain. There’s a brain-gut connection that means that a healthy gut is a healthy brain and vice versa. By eating plenty of legumes, you’ll give your gut the fibre it needs to help cultivate a healthy microbiome.
Make legumes a part of your daily diet, whether as a meat substitute, a bean side salad, in soups and stews, pureed in dips, and so much more.
If you can’t picture your mornings without coffee, then you’ll be glad to find yet another good reason to have a cup of java each day.
Coffee is often a controversial topic in health circles, but ultimately it's designed by nature as a morning drink for a purpose - as a natural pick-me-up and to support digestion during the digestive phase of the 24 hour cycle.
Right up front, it's important to know your source. Coffee is one of the most over commercialised, chemically-treated commodities on earth, so it's important to find a quality source and to choose organic wherever you can.
A good coffee source is full of antioxidants and helps to protect your body and brain at the cellular level. Plus, the natural caffeine can boost memory and concentration, which become harder and harder to maintain as you get older.
Make sure your cup of coffee isn’t loaded with added sugar and commercial dairy.
If you can drink it straight black, this is the best way to go to give you maximum health benefits. Next level, is to add organic plant-based milks like coconut, oat or almond. That way you’ll get all of the health benefits without the bad stuff. If you can’t drink it black yet, just keep lowering your coffee add-ins day by day until you naturally enjoy the taste of plain coffee. Another great way to go is to add a dash of MCT oil and Organic Coconut Butter as a substitute for milk for a delightful, stimulating drink.
If you don’t drink coffee, try this brain-healthy tea for added energy, concentration, and blood circulation:
Brain Booster Tea
1 bag/tsp Ginkgo Biloba
1 bag/tsp Ginseng
Ginkgo is the most famous memory herb and ginseng dramatically improves blood circulation to the brain. Steep these herbs for 5 minutes and drink.
By including the right foods in your diet and eliminating those that add plaque and toxicity to your brain, you can look forward to a healthy mind as you get older.
You may already be eating many of these foods, but it definitely won't hurt to add a few more to your daily meal plan and snacking routine.
Whether or not you’re concerned about brain dis-eases like Alzheimer’s, it’s smart to start early by eating these eight foods to improve brain function because it’s easier to protect what you have than recover what you’ve lost and a healthy brain means a healthy quality of life.
Tolman Self Care.