6 Brain Fueling Foods You've Never Thought Of
There are better ways to fuel your brain than an energy drink. While fish is a common suggestion (salmon and sardines are indeed great options), there are plenty of other options. Here are six other foods that contain nutrients that are linked to better brain function.
Red Peppers (pictured above)
Vitamin C is important to the brain, not only as a primary fighter of oxidative stress, but also potentially as a regulator of certain neural transmitters. Believe it or not, one serving of red peppers (1 cup) actually has over 1.5 times more vitamin C than a medium orange! If red peppers aren’t your thing, you can also get significant doses of vitamin C from papaya, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pineapple, kiwi, cantaloupe, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy or grapefruit.
Sunflower seeds aren’t just for baseball players — they are a winning option in anyone’s diet. These seeds are packed with vitamin E, which is involved in shuttling docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from the liver to the brain. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid involved in brain development in childhood and maintaining brain function as an adult. Interestingly, these benefits are not seen with vitamin E supplementation, so eat up! Other foods containing vitamin E are almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, avocado, peanuts, asparagus, broccoli and shrimp.
Walnuts, like fish, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids — which are involved in brain structure and function (see vitamin E description above). A palmful a day can go a long way. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flax seeds, sardines, salmon, edamame, grass-fed beef and tofu.
In addition to containing enough vitamin C to meet most of your daily requirement, broccoli is also rich in folate, a vitamin involved in DNA and RNA synthesis, including neural stem cells. Other folate-rich foods include a wide variety of beans, lentils, asparagus, dark leafy greens, rice, beets, avocado, Brussels sprouts and peanuts.
Beets are rich in nitrates, a compound that has been shown to increase blood flow — and ideally oxygen — to the brain. Most research has been done with 16 ounces of beet juice, which has about 200 calories and 50 grams of carbs. To prevent a spike in blood sugar, it may be worth eating a source of protein and/or healthy fat as part of a balanced meal.
One of the most-common causes of mental fogginess is dehydration. Too many times we go through our day’s activities without drinking enough fluids. Even mild levels of dehydration negatively impact both mental and physical performance. If your urine is darker than straw yellow, you’re dehydrated — so drink up and feel better!
Through his book and blog, Death of the Diet, Jason Machowsky, MS, RD, CSCS, empowers people to live the life they want by integrating healthy eating and physical activity habits into their daily routines. You can follow him on Twitter @JMachowskyRDFit.