Can we be smarter?
Everyone wants to improve their brain power. Here are eight foods the experts say will give you that extra boost in mental prowess.
Lots of seafood is packed with omega-3 fatty acids — the powerful nutrients that are considered essential to keep your mind healthy.
Professor of neurosurgery and physiological science, Dr. Fernando Gmez-Pinilla of the UCLA Medical Department, who has studied the effects of food on the brain says that for proper brain health and mental function, the omega-3 fatty acids that are found in walnuts, salmon and kiwi provide a number of benefits including improving our memory and learning capability.
When you add healthy servings of broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower or kale to your meals you’re adding antioxidants and carotenoids, plant compounds considered especially powerful brain protectors.
These antioxidants keep free radicals from causing brain damage until they’re flushed out of your system.
According to a 2012 study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, these vegetables contain isothiocyanates and indoles compounds which can fight cancer and prevent oxidative damage to the brain in ways that the chemicals found in other vegetables cannot.
An important antioxidant that helps your brain function to its fullest is Vitamin E. You’ll find lots of it in most oils, nuts and seeds. Moderate amounts of vitamin E from food, not from supplements, have been found to lower subjects’ risk of Alzheimer’s disease by two-thirds.
The infamous Mediterranean diet contains large amounts of extra virgin olive oil and many recipes include a variety of nuts that are considered to boost brain power better over a low-fat diet. In a study by the Italian medical research firm Prevencion con Dieta Mediterranea (PREDIMED), over 500 men and women were studied regarding how healthy their brains were after eating a diet rich in olive oil and nuts compared with a low-fat control diet. The study concluded that the people assigned to the low-fat control diet had a significant drop in brain function scores. Meanwhile, the memory scores of the control group improved significantly when they followed the guidelines of the Mediterranean diet that included oils and nuts.
Your body digests the simple sugars in whole grains quickly and that gives you a quick energy boost. With glucose the brain’s primary fuel source, it’s important to replenish these foods often or the subsequent downslide from the energy spike will cause you to lose concentration.
The health benefits of eating whole grains has been well-documented over the past few years. According to an analysis on Canadian TV’s “The Better Brain,” foods like whole grain couscous, pasta, spelt pasta, oatmeal, and quinoa-stuffed peppers are much better foods for brain power than the “junk foods” many today are eating.
Berries contain another antioxidant that protects your brain.
Some researchers believe that berries help in building a healthier connection between our brain cells. Dr. Steven Pratt, Senior staff ophthalmologist at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California says that blueberries should be called “brainberries” because they help protect our brains from oxidative stress and may even reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other berries such as blackberries, cranberries, and strawberries also benefit the brain in a number of similarly important ways.
Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, another antioxidant that researchers say adds to the health of your brain.
Chocolate contains a number of compounds that act on receptors in the brain to make you feel better and make you more relaxed.
According to a study done by the University of Texas, the brain is continually exposed to many compounds and the number of receptors that are available so that these compounds can bind to can decrease over time.
Caffeine is another food that will improve attention and reaction time as well as other of our brain skills.
Coffee contains hundreds of healthy bioactive compounds and is the single biggest source of antioxidants for many people. Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors in our brains, and once it’s there it keeps adenosine from escaping. Caffeine does more than just block adenosine though. It also helps our levels of adrenaline and boosts our mood, both essential factors in giving us additional brain power.
Curry is a potent spice that’s been known for centuries to fight inflammation. More recent studies have shown that the active ingredient in curry, curcumin, tends to clear away proteins in the brain called amyloid plaque that are considered to likely be of the primary causes of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a recent study in the journal PLoS ONE, investigators from Sweden’s Linköping University examined how curcumin affects transgenic fruit flies which developed Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) symptoms and discovered that the flies that received the curcumin stayed alive for up to 75% longer. They also maintained their mobility longer. Although curcumin did not have any effect on dissolving amyloid plaque, the researchers discovered that there was a great reduction in neurodegeneration, meaning that it worked well in increasing brain power.