[soc_panel color=”gray”]By: Unber Shafiq[/soc_panel]
Every student wants to have an excellent memory; all aging people want to keep their mind from declining, and everyone wants to have better focus and concentration. It seems to be the introductory lines to make you buy supplements. However, it’s all about natural food that you can easily buy from a farmer’s market.
The food that you eat has a lot to do with the way your brain works. ByTheWayHealth brings you a list of 13 foods that can boost your memory, improve the focus, and protect you from neurodegenerative illnesses.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
These flat and asymmetrically oval seeds extracted from pumpkins were used in traditional medicine to expel parasites from the body between the years 1863-1936. But these days, these seeds are used because of their nutrient-dense feature.
An ounce of pumpkin seeds (shell-free) contains around 151 calories. Eating just a small amount of these seeds will bring in substantial amounts of zinc, iron, copper, antioxidants, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamin K, proteins and healthy fats in your body.
Of these nutrients, the following four are specifically related to brain health.
1. Zinc: Many neurological deficiencies such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease have zinc deficiency linked to them. Zinc is crucial for nerve signaling.
If you are looking to have some good brain functioning, zinc is definitely one of those nutrients on the list.
2. Copper: Again, copper plays a role in controlling the signals originating from your nerves, and lack of this nutrient can enhance the risk of having neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s.
3. Magnesium: It is vital for memory and learning. Low magnesium levels have shown to be a contributing factor in migraines, epilepsy, and depression.
4. Iron: it is one of the most critical contributors to normal brain functioning. The effect of low iron is not just limited to the developing brain, but it also affects the cognitive level irrespective of its developmental stage.
With iron being widely distributed in a variety of foods, you surely wouldn’t want to have low cognitive performance secondary to iron deficiency.
So, these four nutrients in pumpkin seeds can save you from the low mental performance. Add these to your diet.
Our all-time favorite, avocados are a good choice to have a memory boost. They help improve our focus and provide some good fats to the body.
Avocados are the powerhouse packed with vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, monosaturated fats, and proteins, where vitamin K and folate prevent the clotting of blood and protect against stroke. Moreover, they improve the cognitive function.
A combination of highest proteins and lowest sugar levels is what you find with an avocado. You can add this brain food to smoothies, use it as a spread for your sandwich, or try it in your baking recipes.
Related article: 12 Amazing Health Benefits of Avocados
It’s amazing how a simple spice can have so many health benefits. Turmeric, an ancient root, favorite for it’s healing benefits has much more to offer. If you have been following health blogs, you must know of the great buzz turmeric has created. And it’s all true.
To start off, let’s see how turmeric affects brain health.
One of the active ingredients in turmeric–curcumin– has shown to cross the blood-brain barrier which is usually very selective in what passes through it. Curcumin, therefore, can directly enter your brain and benefit the brain cells there.
Curcumin is also an antioxidant and has an anti-inflammatory role both of which benefit the brain health through one of the following:
- memory boost
- the growth of new brain cells
- ease in depression
Turmeric improves the oxygen intake of your brain keeping it alert and processing the information with greater ease.
You can reap all these benefits just by adding turmeric powder to your dishes, or you could also try turmeric tea.
There’s a lot of research going on about the anti-cancerous effects of blueberries. Amid this research, we don’t want you to miss on other benefits some of which are related to improved memory.
Anthocyanins found in blueberries have both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that act against inflammation and oxidative stress, thus protecting the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
In fact, blueberries have the highest antioxidant content of all the items available in the fruit market. Some of these antioxidants have shown to improve brain cells communication by accumulating in the brain.
Moreover, blueberries can potentially delay the short-term memory loss and have shown to improve memory.
So, it’s true that great things come in small packages. All you have to do is to sprinkle these small berries on your morning cereals or blend them into a smoothie. Got no time? It’s okay; you can simply eat a handful of this magical natural candy and reap all the benefits.
If you are among the majority that starts its day with a cup of coffee, you’d be glad to hear that it’s a good thing that you do every day. The caffeine and antioxidants found in coffee do a good job of helping your brain.
There are numerous positive effects of caffeine on your brain. Some of those include:
- Improved mood: Yes, caffeine boosts that “mood-lifting” neurotransmitter, serotonin.
- Better concentration: Ever felt the need to have coffee when you had piles of work and all you wanted to do was concentrate better? You were right in your selection because caffeine in the coffee makes you more effective in concentration-requiring-tasks. That’s what research says.
- Increased alertness: Caffeine blocks the sleepy messenger–adenosine–out of your way. No drowsier feelings.
Drinking coffee has also been linked to a reduced risk of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This is thought to be due to high amounts of antioxidants found in coffee.
6. Green Tea
While you may not be a big fan of green tea, but similar to coffee, green tea also has caffeine in it.
Research shows that green tea helps improve memory, focus, and brain performance. In fact, based on certain other components, green-tea is an even healthier choice for brain health.
Can you recall those situations where the focus is entirely out of sight, and all that is left is panic? If you think on psychological grounds, that situation is anxiety. Green tea has an amino acid–L-theanine–that crosses the blood-brain barriers, increase the activity of a certain neurotransmitter (GABA) and reduces anxiety. It also increases the alpha wave frequency that in turn helps you to relax.
Green tea is also a good source of polyphenols and antioxidants that are linked to protecting the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.
Related article: Which Types of Tea Offer Health Benefits?
Mum was totally right when she said that broccoli is good for health. However, we didn’t realize those health benefits back in our childhood.
Broccoli is one of the most nutrient-dense food found on our planet. Can you imagine, just a cup of broccoli has 150 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
Broccoli has high levels of vitamin K and choline both of which have a role in keeping your memory sharp. Studies have shown high levels of vitamin K to be linked to improved memory. What else could be greater than a memory-boosting effect?
Other than these nutrients, broccoli is fully packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that protect your brain from damages.
Remember not to overcook this vegetable, or you’ll lose most of the nutrients.
8. Dark Chocolate
It’s okay if you cannot resist Hershey’s special dark chocolate bar or Lindt’s wide range of dark chocolates. The fact is that these chocolates have brain-boosting properties. Yes, you read this right.
Flavonoids in the dark chocolate gather in the memory and learning region of your brain and provide all the cognitive benefits.
Check out the following remarkable benefits of dark chocolates:
- Improved brain function
- Reduced risk of declining memory
- Improved heart health
- Aid in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients
- Reduced fasting blood sugar in diabetics
- Improved mood
- Better flow of blood to the brain and other organs of the body
Chocolates that contain at least 70 percent of cocoa are a good choice to reap the memory boosting and other cognitive benefits of dark chocolates. Even better, you can dip your blueberries in the dark chocolate and have the combined benefits of both.
Plentiful amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, choline, and folate are present in eggs. These nutrients play a role in brain health.
Choline has shown to improve memory and mental functions. It’s a micronutrient that is used to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that is linked to mood and memory. Many people, however, do not get sufficient choline.
Eating eggs can help make up for that deficiency as egg yolks have the most concentrated amounts of choline.
Other than choline, the B vitamins found in eggs also play positive roles towards brain health. These vitamins slow down the mental decline in the elderly.
B vitamins are also involved in the synthesis of various chemicals in the brain. They play a positive role against depression and help regulate sugar levels in your brain.
Folate, another important nutrient in eggs, is linked to minimizing the age-related mental decline.
Related article: 10 Warning Signs of Iron Deficiency (P.S. 15 Iron Rich Foods)
While there may be a lack of research data on eating eggs to improve the brain health, but there is sufficient evidence to support the fact that nutrients in the egg improve mental performance.
10. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish makes an excellent choice for a healthy brain. This category includes salmon, sardines, and trout, all of which are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
You’d be surprised to read that almost 60 percent of your brain is made of fat, and some 30 percent of that fat is the omega-3-fatty-acid-kind-of fat. The function of omega-3s is to help the brain create nerve and brain cells.
The omega-3s are essential for memory. They have also shown to reduce the age-related mental decline and protect against Alzheimer’s.
According to one study, individuals who ate fish regularly had more gray matter in the brain compared to others. Gray matter is the area that has most nerve cells controlling decisions, memory, and emotions.
On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency has shown to result in learning difficulties and depression.
If you have been on an outlook for a memory boost, look no further than the fatty fish.
An extensive study conducted on over 100,000 people concluded that individuals who eat nuts have a 20 percent low death rate than those who don’t eat nuts.
But, from the perspective of brain health, not all nuts are equal. If you look up the list of healthy nuts for the brain, walnuts are sure to be on the top.
Walnuts have a high amount of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA has shown to have many positive effects including
- improved cognitive function
- protection towards brain health in newborns
- prevention of age-related cognitive decline
- sharp memory
- better heart health
Just a quarter cup of walnuts has all the DHA you need in one day.
Healthy fats, vitamin E, antioxidants, and other nutrients found in walnuts explain their brain-healthy functions.
Although all nuts have beneficial effects towards the brain, walnuts are special as they also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Going nuts to have better brain health? Walnuts can be a good choice.
Related article: 11 Compelling Reasons to Eat More Nuts
It’s sad that beets are not as popular as broccoli or spinach. These roots are one of the most nutritious foods out there.
Beets contain natural nitrates that improve blood flow to the brain and enhance your cognitive performance. They also help boost energy, reduce inflammation, and protect our body against cancer.
You may not have been using enough beets, but from now on they can be a part of your salad, or you can have them in roasted form.
The standard pasta and pizza diet depletes your body of the essential nutrients that are important for a sharp memory and healthy brain. Spinach is the leafy green that can make up for most of these depleted nutrients.
Spinach has high concentrations of brain-friendly folate and B vitamins. The amino acid, L-tyrosine, has a critical role in the synthesis of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are directly or indirectly related to keeping brain alert.
Amid your attempts to find a solution for a perfect memory that remains good even when you age, often the power of natural food items is forgotten. Your first instinct is to go for memory boosting and brain health supplements, whereas buying those walnuts on your way back home was a much better option. Try incorporating the above-mentioned memory boosting foods in your diet, and you’d see the benefits for yourself.