Foods to Fuel Your Brain
These 15 fresh foods can help keep your brain in top shape.
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Give Your Brain a Boost
Research reveals that certain foods can benefit your brain in a variety of ways. Here are 15 foods that can help fuel your brain. Pick up any or all of these foods on your next shopping trip.
Spinach and Other Leafy Greens
Turn back time with leafy greens. A recent study showed that people who ate nearly one and half servings a day had the brain function of someone 11 years younger compared to those who consumed less than one serving per day over the course of five years. Salads and sandwiches are easy options, or try Ellie Krieger's lighter creamed spinach.
Get the Recipe: Creamed Spinach
Don't forget the eggs. They have memory-boosting choline, protein for your muscles and lutein for your eyesight — important if you spend time in front of a computer screen.
The EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid ) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 fats found in salmon have been shown to boost brain development and improve its function. Both EPA and DHA are found in all cells of the body and have been shown to have anti-inflammatory functions. Turn salmon into a light weeknight meal that will please the brains and the bellies around your table.
Get the Recipe: Salmon Kebobs with Quinoa and Grapefruit Salad
Skip the chips and grab some berries for a snack or dessert. The antioxidants found in raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries are linked to improved short-term memory. Try Giada's Raspberry-Vanilla Smoothie instead of your usual midnight snack.
Get the Recipe: Raspberry-Vanilla Smoothie
Glucose is the primary fuel for your brain. Enjoying a hot bowl of oatmeal, a cool cup of overnight oats or a slice of lightened banana oat bread incorporates these healthy whole grains into your diet. Whole-grain oats contain fiber, which means they take longer to be digested and provide your body with a slow source of glucose, so your brain can enjoy the benefits for longer.
Get the Recipe: Healthy Cherry Almond Oatmeal Smoothie
Broccoli is full of fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins C and E. People who eat more cruciferous vegetables show slower mental decline. Raw broccoli is great, but we love the nutty taste of roasted broccoli.
A 2016 study found that drinking black or green tea regularly lowered the risk for cognitive impairment in older Chinese adults by 50% compared to non-tea drinkers. Enjoy your cup of tea cold or hot, with or without a splash or milk.
Based on scientific evidence, the polyphenols, tocopherols and polyunsaturated fats found in walnuts may be what’s helping to protect against the detrimental effects of aging. In addition, according to a 2015 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, researchers found that eating walnuts may improve performance on cognitive function tests, including tests for memory, concentration and information-processing speed in adults. Add walnuts to salads, cookie or muffin batters, smoothies, and trail mixes.
Citrus fruit like oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit provide a plethora of vitamin C. This antioxidant helps fight free radicals that can damage brain cells. In addition, research shows that eating enough food high in vitamin C can help protect against age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Enjoy citrus fruit in a variety of ways, such as in a cold glass of orange juice, a citrus smoothie or grapefruit salsa.
The omega-3 fat ALA is found in flax seeds and then converted into EPA and DHA. Omega-3 fats are essential to help develop the brain, specifically in childhood. Enjoy flax seeds on oatmeal, in salads and blended into smoothies, or add them to pancake, muffin or cookie batters.
A 2018 review paper found that cocoa can help enhance cognitive function, reduce the risk of dementia and improve performance on memory activities. Researchers pinpointed the epicatechin found in cocoa to help with these cognitive benefits. Look for at least 60% dark chocolate and enjoy in moderation (no more than 1 ounce per day).
These small seeds provide lots of brain-boosting nutrients, including ALA omega-3 fats, magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is involved in healthy brain development and can improve your memory and learning. Zinc is also involved in healthy brain function. Enjoy pumpkin seeds in trail mixes, spiced and eaten by hand, sprinkled over a salad, or in muffins.
This whole grain provides slow and steady energy for the brain. This is because it’s filled with fiber, which helps the glucose take longer to be absorbed and digested. It also provides numerous B vitamins and vitamin E, which all are needed for your brain to be healthy. Enjoy farro as a side grain or use it to stuff peppers — or add it to soups, grain bowls or salads.
Avocados provide several nutrients that help your brain stay healthy. These include healthy fats (including omega-3 fats), numerous B vitamins, and antioxidant vitamins C and E. Enjoy avocados smashed on toast, in salads, with Mexican fare, or as a dip (hello, guacamole!).