8 Brain Foods for a Healthy Mind
In today's busy world it is easy to forget about the basic guidelines for healthy eating, including the importance of eating three square meals a day. But did you know that certain foods are considered good for your brain health and overall brain function?
We've rounded up our favorite "brain foods" that have been proven to help with focus, memory, and keeping you feeling more awake, alert and energized throughout your day. The following is a list of eight super-foods that should be part of your weekly meal plan. Each food will include information about the health benefits for specific brain-related function, as well as a quick recipe suggestion. So whether you're looking for foods to help with memory, to help wake you up, or perhaps even to help you concentrate, these amazing nutritious foods are sure to provide.
1 - Avocado
Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They contain fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and all of the B vitamins. Avocados are also high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your heart and brain healthy. Eating avocados can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Avocado Toast Recipe
- ½ ripe avocado
- 1 slice whole wheat bread
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Toast the slice of bread in the toaster or in a pan. Scoop the avocado out of its peel and use a fork to mash it on top of the toast. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.
2 - Nuts
Eating a small handful of nuts each day is a great snack that is high in fiber, protein, unsaturated fat and a slew of vitamins and minerals. Each type of nut offers an array of nutrients. For example, cashews are high in zinc, iron and magnesium, which can aid in the improvement of memory loss and memory related diseases. Walnuts contain significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, which is one of the three omega-3 fatty acids that is essentially food for our brain and keeps our brains healthy active and alive from birth and throughout our life.
Spicy Cajun Nut Mix Recipe
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 1 lb. bag of raw mixed nuts
Heat a large sauté pan or wok to medium heat with oil. Add the spices to the oil and cook for a few minutes just to warm through. Add the mixed nuts and mix well, stirring constantly to coat the nuts well with the seasoning. Remove from the pan when the nuts begin to look and smell toasted. Enjoy warm or room temperature.
3 - Dark Chocolate
Not just any chocolate will do on this list, and specifically its dark chocolate that has most of the brain health benefits. For starters, the flavonoids in dark chocolate improve blood flow to the brain increasing your attention span, your reaction time, your problem solving skills and your memory. Additionally, eating dark chocolate releases endorphins in our brain reducing stress levels and pain in the body. Chocolate also contains high levels of tryptophan, which is a neurotransmitter of feeling happy.
Chocolate-Dipped Blackberries Recipe
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 pint black berries
- Chopped walnuts, for garnish (optional)
Melt the chopped dark chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds or until smooth. Dip each black berry halfway into the chocolate then place on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped walnut pieces for extra crunch. Let the chocolate harden on the berries before serving.
4 - Blueberries
According to a study at Tufts University, blueberries if eaten regularly can help with short-term memory loss. Other studies show that blueberries can also slow the aging process and age related diseases. In the short term, these magic berries can also help to improve your ability to learn and can improve your motor function and skills.
Blueberry Pudding Recipe
- 1 package (6 ounces) blueberries
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar
- 1 tablespoon apple juice
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
In the bowl of a blender add blueberries, coconut milk, agave nectar, apple juice and chia seeds. Blend mixture until blueberries are well pureed. Refrigerate pudding or serve room temperature.
5 - Salmon
Eating fish that is high in essential fatty acids is one of the best sources of protein and other nutrients for your body and your brain. Since the body does not make essential fatty acids naturally they must be consumed by our diet. Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines contains the highest amounts of EFAs and DHAs. High levels of DHAs improve memory loss and can reduce the risk of all memory related diseases like dementia and basic brain atrophy due to the natural aging process.
Salmon Cucumber Coins Recipe
- ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- 24 slices cucumber
- 4 oz smoked salmon, cut into 24 pieces
In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, capers and chopped dill. Place 1 teaspoon of yogurt sauce onto each cucumber slice. Top each with a piece of smoked salmon and a small sprig of dill and serve immediately.
6 - Beets
Beets are not only high in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese and potassium but they have also been proven to increase blood flow to the brain. Eating beets can improve your overall mental performance and brain function simply because the nitrates in beets convert to nitric oxide in your body which helps you relax and dilates the blood vessels in your brain lowering your blood pressure.
Roasted Beets Recipe
- 12 beets
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with your favorite vinaigrette dressing and enjoy.
7 - Broccoli
Eating your green vegetables has never been more important then when relating it to your overall brain health. Broccoli contains high levels of Vitamin K and choline, which helps to strengthen your cognitive brain functions and improves your memory. Broccoli also contains a lot of folic acid, which can help to prevent Alzheimer's disease and can help keep you feeling happy and ward off depression. Additionally it is high in lignans, which has been shown to benefit our brains ability to perform its basic functions like thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining and learning words.
Oven-Roasted Broccoli Crisps Recipe
- 1 head broccoli, washed and completely dried
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cut broccoli into florets and place in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over broccoli with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Transfer to a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for at least 25 minutes or until the broccoli is crispy and crunchy, but not completely burned. There will be burned edges on some florets which is what gives these chips their irresistible crunchy texture and crispy, caramelized flavor.
8 - Whole Grains
These foods can come in the form of whole-wheat pasta, wheat and whole grain breads, brown rice, and oats. The reason that these foods are considered magical energy for the brain is because whole grains are low glycemic foods and will keep the blood sugar stable for longer than eating refined or white grains. Whole grains very minimally alter your glucose level in the body and will slowly supply glucose to your blood and brain overtime, helping you concentrate for longer and stay focused throughout your day.
Steel-Cut Oats and Banana Recipe
- 1 cup Steel Cut Oats
- 3 cups water
- Pinch salt
- Banana, sliced
Bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil then add 1 cup Steel-Cut Oats. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook stirring occasionally for 10 - 15 minutes (or to your desired doneness). Remove from heat and let stand covered for a couple of minutes. Spoon into a bowl and serve with slices of banana on top.