The human brain is one of the body’s most vital organs and is the central unit that controls everything. The brain controls each body-regulating process, including thought, memory, emotion, touch, motor skills, vision, breathing, temperature, hunger, and every type of bodily function. The brain weighs about 1.5 kilograms in an average adult, yet the activities involving the brain are innumerable. Hence, the brain needs an abundance of nutrients to keep it functioning in a good way.
Research revealed that nutrients that are consumed in everyday food have a significant impact on altering brain health and mental functions. For instance, it’s well known that omega-3 fatty acids support brain health, which is why a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is being praised for helping cognitive function in humans.
This is why many people try to incorporate as many nutrients into their daily diet. But for people who just started their healthy diet, choosing the right food to fulfill nutrient intake for a healthy brain might be confusing. To help you get started, here below are some superfoods you can include in your daily meal:
Fish (fatty ones are better)
Fish, especially oily and fatty ones, are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in unsaturated fats. Omega-3 is essential to help build and maintain healthy membrane cells, including brain cells. Furthermore, omega-3s provide calories for energy and are essential for a healthy heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system (hormone-producing gland network).
Aside from providing a great source of omega-3, research also showed that dietary consumption of fish helps to improve cognitive abilities in healthy people. The said research also suggested having a fish diet at least 2 times a week, reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment in the long run.
Green, leafy vegetables
Greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and dandelion greens are rich in healthy nutrients for the brain. They are packed with several minerals and vitamins like vitamin E, vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene.
Study findings showed that regular consumption of leafy greens may help slow cognitive function decline in older age and decrease the risk of dementia.
Spices and herbs
Spices like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, and many other spices and herbs have many health benefits, especially for brain health.
Several extensive studies showed some effects of consuming herbs and spices in food on the brain and cognitive function in the long run. For instance, researchers have proven that consuming particular herbs like Ginkgo Biloba and ginseng has been reputed to have beneficial effects on cognitive processes and reduce the risk of degenerative cognitive illnesses like dementia.
Another great fact: spices and herbs are great sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients which help to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline.
Blueberries, blackberries, and cranberries are some types of berries that are most consumed by people.
Evidence suggested that berries may have positive effects on memory function, global cognition, and depression, particularly among older patients.
A group of plant compounds known as anthocyanins is found in blueberries and other deeply colored berries, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Neurodegenerative diseases and oxidative stress can be mitigated with antioxidants by preventing oxidative stress and inflammation.
Nuts are well-known as brain food and are rich in neuroprotective nutrients including vitamin E, healthy fats, and plant compounds. These neuroprotective nutrients can prevent or delay age-related neurological dysfunction and cognitive decline.
In metadata research about walnuts, it has been shown that walnuts are associated with cardiovascular benefits. The lower risk of cardiovascular disease may be associated with better brain health since cardiovascular disease increases the risk of cerebrovascular disease, stroke, and mild cognitive impairment as well.
However, some people are highly allergic to nuts, and some can be lethal, so consume them in moderation.
Tea and coffee
It may seem like a joke but it is the truth that tea and coffee are good for your brain and cognitive health. As long as tea and coffee are consumed at 200 mg in one sitting (around 2½ cups of coffee) or 400 mg daily (around 5 cups of coffee), it isn’t considered harmful. Both tea and coffee contain caffeine which can increase alertness and well-being, help concentration, improve mood, and limit depression.
A study conducted on Japanese residents aged over 60 showed that green tea consumption is significantly associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline or mild cognitive impairment. A lifetime of coffee/caffeine consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. It appears to have no impact on seizure occurrence. Thus, daily coffee intake can be part of a healthy balanced diet.
Eggs are the easiest and most versatile food source that can fulfill your mineral and vitamin needs. Eggs are rich in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and choline which are supernutrients for a healthy brain.
Deficiency in vitamin B6 and B12 may cause several cognitive problems like irritability, impaired alertness, depression, cognitive decline, and impairment like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Choline is an important micronutrient for humans and is required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters (acetylcholine) in your brain. Together with folate, choline plays an important role in pregnancy. The deficiency of choline and folate may cause birth defects.
In recent years, there are a lot of extensive research on seeds as brain superfoods. A study was conducted to analyze how chia seeds can improve intelligence. The researcher experimented by comparing 2 groups in several intelligence tests, one group was required to consume chia seeds for 21 days and the other group was not. The finding shows that chia seed nutrition has positive effects on cognitive abilities. This was proven in particular by the two tests with high significance and the memory task, which indicates that a dietary intake of chia seeds can positively impact memory abilities.
Another rich-nutrient seed is pumpkin seed which is dense with antioxidants and an excellent source of essential micronutrients like iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc. These micronutrients are important in maintaining healthy nerve signals and help to improve memory.
Fermented foods are identical to ancient and traditional ethnic food and might seem intimidating to those who are not used to them. With rich flavor, fermented foods also come with high-profile nutritional benefits. Fermented foods are packed with healthy probiotics and prebiotics which can be directly associated with gut health.
Another reason to incorporate fermented foods into your diet is that fermented foods have powerful neuroprotection against neurotoxicity and reactive oxygen species. These benefits lead to cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective effects in the long run.
Numerous foods can help to keep your brain healthy. You can try to include these superfoods into your healthy diet one by one to get used to them. No need to hurry in changing everything on your plate. Make sure that you incorporate these types of foods without drastic changes and still fulfill your daily nutrient needs. In the end, these superfoods are only beneficial if you balance your meals with a healthy lifestyle and keep training your brain.
For more research-based resources on nutrition, visit the Personal Science Labs. The lab produces courses, certifications, podcasts, and videos based on the research of the Institute for Life Management Science. Check out Personal Science Labs today. Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash