In order for your brain to work properly, it must be fueled with the right nutrients
These foods can help with memory function.
"One lives in the hope of becoming a memory." That’s a nice quote from poet Antonio Porchia, but what happens when we start forgetting? As we get older, many people find that their memories aren’t as reliable as they once were — and I’m no exception. Recently, I’ve found that I need to make more notes and set up more reminders on my computer and phone than I used to. It happens to everyone, right? But, what if there was something we could do to stop or slow memory loss?
As you might have guessed, the answer doesn’t come in pill form. In order for your brain to work properly, it must be fueled with the right nutrients. A 1997 Journal of the American Geriatric Society study found that patients who had higher blood levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene scored better on tests of memory, vocabulary, recall, and recognition. Both vitamins work as antioxidants, which can prevent cell damage within the brain (and the rest of the body).
A 2010 Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association studyfound that omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory and learning in older adults with minor cognitive impairments. Omega-3 fatty acids can be taken in supplement form, but they are also found in certain foods. As always, consult your doctor and health care provider before taking any supplements.
Although there are specific nutrients that have been proven to have a direct impact on memory function, it’s important to remember that these nutrients don’t work in isolation. That’s why it’s always better to get as much nutrition from food as possible.
Here are a few tips for getting more of these brain-boosting nutrients into your diet (in their natural form).
Foods to Fuel the Brain
Exams, for the majority of us, are stressful times. Busy schedules leave us chasing our tails, there’s no time to cook and the diet normally goes to pot. We tend to grab those quick fix stimulants – caffeine and sugar – which lead to peaks and troughs in energy, both mental and physical.
For concentration, focus and good memory we need to be calm and balanced without these dips in energy or mood. The following list of foods to fuel the brain will give you a brain boost to keep you focused and alert – far more than a double expresso, some wine gums and a bag of crisps.
5 Foods That Will Boost Your Brain Power
If plain old study guides and flashcards aren’t getting you those straight A’s, try adding these five foods to your diet. Research shows that eating these foods on a regular basis can help amp up your memory and lead to that 4.0 GPA you’ve been dreaming about.
Grab your favorite types of berries by the handful because these have been shown to increase sharpness and processing speed of our brains. Spice up your mornings by adding berries to your oatmeal, smoothies, yogurt, or even cereal.
Can you say, “Pass the guac?” Avocados contain healthy fats that are great for protecting the cells in our brains. So hit up Chipotle more often and don’t be afraid to ask for extra guacamole because we all know you want it.
Even though this morning energizer gets a bad rap, it has many benefits for our brains. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system that makes sure your brain keeps functioning as it should. This is just some additional support you need to fuel your Starbucks addiction.
Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not saying that slapping the bag every night is a solution to getting good grades, but pour yourself a glass or two in the name of better brain functioning. And you thought Wine Wednesdays were hurting your GPA…
With an impact on mood, learning, cognition and memory, chocolate should be eaten guilt-free. The better grades you’ll get from stuffing your face with chocolate on a daily basis will cancel out all the calories. I’m sure of it.
I recommend keeping the intake of wine outside of the library scene, but bring the other brain boosters as snacks to fuel your brain for the all-nighters in the library. Unfortunately, you’re still going to have to study, but by adding these foods you will hopefully be on that fast track towards an A.
Chocolates, Hot Cocoa and Cocoa Powder
You're aware of the health benefits of the flavanols found in dark chocolate. But you may not know that some chocolates, cocoa powders, cacao nibs, and even dark chocolates may contain neurotoxic heavy metals. A study of cocoa trees in Peru found that certain tree varieties pull high levels of cadmium from the soil that end up in chocolate bars and cocoa powder. In an analysis of chocolate products currently on the market, ConsumerLab.com found that some chocolate bars contained toxic levels of cadmium. "There's a limit to how much cadmium you should get," says Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com. While the United States has set no federal guidelines on cadmium in foods, California recommends limiting consumption to 4.1 micrograms per day. "I wouldn't have more than one cup of cocoa per day," Cooperman says. You can find a review of the tested chocolate products at ConsumerLab.com.
If you're looking to thread the needle between reaping the benefits of chocolate while avoiding the bad, stick to no more than one serving of chocolate per day.
5 ways to fuel your brain
Fortunately, mental deterioration is not irreversible. In fact, the brain is incredibly dynamic and has the potential and the ability to change at any point throughout our entire life – and you have the power to enhance your brain function, protect your brain from damage and counteract the effects of aging! That is, if you’re willing to fuel the brain and tweak your everyday decisions.
1. CONSUME MORE (HEALTHY) FAT
What fuels your brain? Healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids — which are found in brain fuel foods like salmon, flaxseed and walnuts — offer a number of health benefits, such as improving cognitive performance and warding off mental and mood disorders. These fatty acids can support brain plasticity, which is your brain’s ability to change in response to stimulation demands placed on it, which could then enhance the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory.
In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers analyzing the diets of 12,000 pregnant women found that children of those who consumed the least omega-3s were 48% more apt to score in the lowest quartile on IQ tests. And in a similar study, 396 children between the ages 6 and 12 who were given a beverage with omega-3 fatty acids showed higher scores on tests measuring verbal intelligence and learning and memory after 18 months than a control group of students who did not consume the drink.
A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has also been linked to a increased risk of mental disorders such as attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. One study found that individuals who consumed more omega-3s had increased volume of the brain’s gray matter volume, especially in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.
For all of these reasons, if you’re wondering how to sharpen your mind, give it the right brain fuel by consuming more healthy fats. If you’re unsure how you can add these specific foods into your diet, you can always buy omega-3 supplements at your local grocery or health food store.
2. DRINK SOME GREEN TEA
Green tea is hailed throughout the world as a miracle worker for the mind and body. A rich source of antioxidants, nutrients and minerals, green tea is well known for its ability to protect the body from free radicals. Green tea is also known for its ability to increase the body’s natural fat-burning processes and boost the body’s metabolic rate. But did you know that drinking green tea regularly can also potentially lead to enhanced cognitive functionality, and, in particular, boost the working memory and stimulate your brain?
In a 2014 study, researchers worked with 12 healthy volunteers who each consumed either a whey-based (dairy) soft drink that contained 27.5 grams of green tea extract or a similar beverage without the green tea. The participants were then administered working memory tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The results revealed that those who consumed the green tea extract showed increased connectivity between the parietal and the frontal cortex of the brain, and, ultimately, performed better on the tests.
3. WALKING AND STRETCHING
For decades, researchers have been discovering evidence of the positive relationship between physical exercise and cognitive performance. In fact, there are a number of studies that have shown how exercise helps the brain resist physical shrinkage, enhances cognitive flexibility and sharpens the mind. Other studies also concluded that individuals who exercise regularly have healthier brains and perform significantly better on cognitive tests than those who are sedentary.
But if you do not have time to incorporate physical activity into your regular routine, does this mean you are at a serious disadvantage? Not necessarily. Neurologists have found that even moderate exercise, such as walking for just 40 minutes three times a week, can stimulate your brain and enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits, combat declines in brain function due to aging and even increase cognitive skills.
Stretching has also been found to have positive effects on brainpower. In one study, one half of the participants added stretching and toning to their weekly routine, but changed nothing else about their lifestyles, and the other half added moderate aerobic activity to their routine. The aerobic activity boosted the brain more effectively than the stretching and toning, which was not a surprise given the already documented benefits of exercise, but those who only stretched and toned still had better results on cognitive performance tests after one year into the study than they had at its onset.
4. 9 BRAIN-BOOSTING FOODS
How often do you think about what you’re eating? While it’s unhealthy to be obsessed over your diet, it’s important to recognize the vital relationship between diet and brain functionality. For example, research has shown that children who ate breakfast before school exhibited better memory and acquisition skills while learning. Another study found that individuals who kept healthier diet habits had a reduced risk of cognitive decline as they got older. Food is literally fuel for the brain, as well as for the rest of your body.
But eating a healthy, balanced diet is only part of the equation. There are some foods that serve as brain fuel and have been shown to improve brain function, protect against age-associated cognitive decline and encourage focus and clarity. Here are a few items you may consider adding into your diet more heavily.
• Nuts, for example, are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that has been linked to improvements in both short- and long-term memory.
• Broccoli, which is full of vitamin K, is known to enhance cognitive performance and bolster brainpower.
• Pumpkin seeds provide your body with zinc, which is critical for enhancing memory and thinking skills.
• Blueberries contain anthocyanins, or antioxidants that support neuron-to-neuron communication in the brain and may help prevent memory loss.
• Dark chocolate has been shown to increase brain characteristics of attention and focus.
• Leafy greens, asparagus, olives, and whole grains are also full of vitamin E, which is likely to help prevent cognitive decline, especially in older individuals.
By incorporating these brain superfoods into your dietary regimen, you may be able to build brainpower in ways that you can’t from other strategies alone.
5. MUSIC FOR THE MIND
Everyone loves music, at least some type of music. We listen to music when we exercise because it energizes and engages our bodies. We listen to music when we want to relax because it soothes and calms. But what about listening to music when we want to create a real change in our brain function and sharpen our minds?
In a 2011 study, 40 pre-op patients were assigned either to a music group in which they listened to instrumental music, or to a control group in which they listened to a non-musical placebo. Both groups listened to their respective audio stimulus for about two hours before and then during their operations. Researchers found that during the surgical process, the patients in the music group exhibited lower propofol consumption and had lower cortisol levels than the control group.
Cortisol levels matter because neuroscientists have found that chronic stress and cortisol can trigger long-term changes in brain structure and function. In a series of experiments, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology, Daniela Kaufer, and her colleagues, found that chronic stress and elevated levels of cortisol can lead to the overproduction of myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal.
Classical music in particular has also been shown to aid in the development of better concentration levels. Just last year, a study from the University of London’s Institute of Education found that exposing children to a range of classical music led to enhanced listening skills and the development of increased concentration and self-discipline. A similar study from the University of Dayton found that students performed better at spatial and linguistic processing when Mozart was playing in the background.
If you’ve been looking for an easy and pleasant way to stimulate your brain, think of classical music as brain fuel. Tune in to the classical station as you commute to work, or patronize your local symphony to sharpen your mind as you support arts in the community.
So, what fuels your brain? It’s a combination of various foods and activities. By creating and sustaining a healthy lifestyle, you improve your chance of retaining and sharpening your cognitive abilities.
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Elements of a Good Diet Plan for Head Injury
The best diet plan for individuals following a head injury is one that fuels the brain. Your brain requires significant levels of energy to function, and when you sustain an injury, it will need even more to recover efficiently.
Therefore, a good brain injury diet should be high in protein and rich in certain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which are both depleted following a TBI.
Some of the best types of foods that do this are those that contain high levels of compounds called flavonoids. Flavonoids are great for patients after head injury because they contain antioxidants that help fight free radicals, i.e. unstable molecules that cause inflammation of brain tissue and changes to cerebral blood flow.
By consuming foods that reduce inflammation, you can therefore improve your chances of making a good recovery from TBI.
5 Brain Food Eats To Always Have in Your Kitchen
1. Blueberries — can help delay memory loss and research shows that blueberries improve focus and increase memory recall. Eat them fresh, make a tea, add them to quinoa, or use dried or frozen in your yogurt, oatmeal or smoothie.
2. Tomatoes — the same lycopene that is good for prostate health is also fab for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Eat them in any form, but know that lycopene is most concentrated in tomato based sauces and paste. Try chopping them up with feta or for a more concentrated punch, try a zesty tomato soup.
3. Pumpkin seeds — full of zinc, which plays an important role in cognition and memory. These beauties are perfect on top of a salad, sprinkled into yogurt, simply toasted, or mixed into your favorite trail mix.
4. Fatty fish — besides salmon, try trout, herring and sardines. These fish are high in omega-3s DHA and EPA, which are important in brain health, joint functioning and overall wellbeing. Try them baked or broiled, in a wrap, or even for breakfast. Don’t forget to check here for the best type of fish to purchase.
5. Coffee — the caffeine in coffee (or tea) is linked to brain boosting effects and is coffee is loaded with antioxidants. Enjoy it in moderation (1 to 2 cups per day) to help you focus on important tasks. Sprinkle on cinnamon, add some pumpkin pie spice, or a shot of vanilla for added flavor.
Hopefully this brain boosting bit of information will inspire you to fuel your noggin. Give it a try and let me know how many fewer times you misplaced your sunglasses this week!
Breakfast Foods That Fuel The Brain
The famous adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” isn’t going anywhere. There are varying schools of thought on this. Some nutritionists and health experts correlate skipping breakfast with things like a higher risk of coronary heart disease or obesity, while others believe these studies are designed to promote cereals and other breakfast food products.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum, loading up on greasy bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches or whipped cream-topped waffles is never the way to go, as it can lead to sluggishness, leave you dehydrated for the rest of the day, and actually trigger you to eat more. The human body is already naturally pre-disposed to fat and carbs, so consuming foods that are high in both will make you crave even more of it. Think about that old Lay’s slogan about how “you can’t eat just one.” There’s actual science behind it. Fat and carbs are the culprit. They send pleasure messages to your brain that cause you to keep eating until you’ve devoured the whole bag! We’ve all been there.
But it is possible to rewire your brain to steer clear of these calorie-filled energy zappers, and fuel productivity and cognitive performance to kickstart your day. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a strip of bacon or stack of pancakes once in a while. If you save sodium-packed snacks for cheat days, and stick to the foods below the rest of the week, you’ll be well satiated and mentally prepared to start your work day.
Blueberry Protein Bowl
There’s a ton of fruit bowls out there right now, and they all offer varying degrees of health benefits. But ones you really need to protect the brain against oxidative stress and improve memory consist of blueberries, antioxidant-rich superfruits. They’re listed in Steven Pratt, MD’s book entitled ‘Superfoods RX: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life.’ Pratt even refers to them as “brain berries,” due to their ability to improve motor skills and learning capacity, as well as potentially reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
This Blueberry Protein Smoothie Bowl recipe is overflowing with nutritional benefits, combining five ounces of brain-enhancing blueberries with oats that have their own advantages for reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) in your body, commonly known as “bad” cholesterol. The soluble fiber in oatmeal reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream, which improves blood flow to the heart and the brain. Adding honey to this tasty morning treat will help protect against allergies. Be sure to use a local honey because the more local honey you consume, the less affected you’ll be by the pollen in your area. Seriously. It’s the bee’s knees.
Baked Spinach and Eggs
Eggs become instantly healthier when you bake instead of fry them. Mixing in olive oil, a notable brain food, and garlic, which protects the brain from inflammation, allows for better absorption of nutrients, and has tested well in studies for protecting against brain loss in conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Garlic also contains allicin, which helps decrease anxiety and depression. Who doesn’t need to free their mind from unnecessary stress?
This recipe also incorporates spinach, a nutritional powerhouse and antioxidant, which aids in everything from lowering your cholesterol to boosting bone health to keeping your skin and hair glowing. When you look good, you feel good, and spinach packs in everything you need to thrive inside and out. It even has more potassium than a banana. So pop this protein-rich dish in the oven, and get ready to take on the world. You’ve got this!
Apple And Pear Hot Cereal
Store-bought cereals that are packed with processed sugars will give you a quick burst of energy, but that high won’t last very long. If you go that route, you may end up crashing, and feeling tired and listless for the rest of the day. Instead, opt for a cereal that contains natural sugars from fruit to give you a gradual release of energy that will extend beyond the morning.
Try this Apple and Pear Hot Cereal. It’s a mind-sharpening meal that blends the brain-boosting benefits of farro and flaxseed with apples, rich in quercetin, an antioxidant plant chemical that protects the brain by shielding it from free radicals to prevent memory loss, sustain energy, and improve mental performance. This hearty dish will also help curb mid-morning cravings so you can stay sharp and satisfied, at least until your lunch break!
Two Second Breakfast
For those on the go, you can’t go wrong with good ‘ol granola. It’s portability and unparalleled appetite-suppressing ability will keep you going strong.
Want more benefits? Load the granola with nuts to get an array of advantages, such as Omega-3 rich fatty acids that help prevent heart attacks, as well as high levels of Vitamin E to offset cognitive decline, increase alertness, and preserve memory longer.
This Two Second Breakfast recipe does the trick and yes, it’s the quickest and easiest way to upgrade your brain in hurry.
There are endless possibilities for giving yourself a healthy morning edge when you choose the right ingredients. So feel free to mix and match these beneficial breakfast bites to find your perfect source of ‘brain-spiration.’
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7 of the Best Brain Foods to Improve Your Memory and Concentration
Because they're so delicious, it's easy to start eating more of these foods that are good for your brain.
Everyone experiences memory gaps or the inability to concentrate and maintain focus occasionally. Sometimes it’s just stress or being distracted, but other times it can be an early symptom of a more serious disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, which includes several different disorders all involving a decline in brain function. In July of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that 1 in 9 adults experience memory loss or confusion. A decline in cognition, which means being unable to retain new information and understand thoughts and experiences, simply put, is terrifying. The good news is there are specific brain-boosting foods you can add into your healthy eating plan. “While basic nutrients like fat, protein, and carbohydrates provide the fuel for brain function, it is the micronutrients that drive the brain’s processes," says Meredith Bull, licensed naturopathic doctor. "Micronutrients are also what are lacking most in the average American diet,” Bull adds. Put these 7 micronutrient-rich foods for brainpower on your next grocery list.
There&rsquos lots of brain food in this tiny green fruit. &ldquoAvocados are an anti-inflammatory superfood,&rdquo says Sarah Mirkin, RD. &ldquoThey have a high bioavailability of lutein which are associated with cognitive benefits.&rdquo Research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found those who ate one avocado a day had improved performance on a cognitive test measuring the ability to maintain focus on a task, than those who didn&rsquot. Use these avocado recipes as inspiration to add more of them to your meals.
Blueberries are well known for their health benefits boasting lots of vitamin C and potassium. The fruit should also be considered as one of the top brain-boosting foods. Blueberries have antioxidative, anti-inflammatory benefits that can significantly improve learning capacity and memory. &ldquoThey also play a role in slowing brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders,&rdquo Mirkin says.
Eggs are well known for their quality protein, but they also pack of punch of choline. Because choline helps produce the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which aids mental focus, deficiencies can lead to compromised brain function, Bull explains. &ldquoWhile our bodies make a small amount of choline, it relies on dietary intake for most of our needs and many Americans consume less than the recommended daily intake,&rdquo says Bull. To get the daily recommended 425 mg to 550 mg of choline for adults, eating more recipes with eggs is a good starting point. One hard-cooked egg has 147 mg. Bull also lists liver, meats, fish and dairy as great sources of choline. Hard-cooked for an on-the-go snack, scrambled or deviled, incorporating this food into your diet for brain health couldn&rsquot be easier.
Fish isn&rsquot your only source for healthy omega fats. Try flaxseeds and chia seeds for foods that improve memory, suggests Mirkin. Both flaxseeds and chia seeds come from plants, and are easily added to salads, smoothies, and veggie dishes, or baked into bars (as pictured). &ldquoOmega fats are key for healthy brain development, strong focus, improved memory, and to avoid cognitive decline,&rdquo adds Mirkin.
Brain Food: 5 Foods to Eat & Avoid for Better Memory
Food plays a crucial role in the health of our bodies–and our minds–and new research is constantly emerging, shedding new light on foods that are great for us…and foods that are bad. We asked Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of the New York Times best-selling book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop pounds and Lose Inches, what her five food picks are for a healthy noggin and why. Plus, she gives some easy eating suggestions, and they’re easy to integrate into holiday dishes and beyond! And to avoid? Read below for recent research that reveals new findings regarding a certain diet we’re surrounded with and its ill effects on the memory and body.
Cinnamon improves the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and this aromatic spice also boosts brain activity. Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing. Cinnamon has also been shown to improve scores on tasks related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed.
Eat it: Add ground cinnamon to your morning coffee, whip it into a fruit smoothie, fold it into yogurt along with fruit, nuts and toasted oats, and add it to savory dishes like lentils and roasted eggplant.
A San Diego State University study found that compared to the same amount of sucrose (table sugar) rats fed honey showed reduced weight gain, less body fat, decreased anxiety, better memory, improved levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and less oxidative stress.
Eat it: Use it to sweeten hot tea, swirl it into yogurt, drizzle over hot or cold cereal, whip it into smoothies or enjoy it right off the spoon.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes
These yellow, nutty flakes can be found in any health food store and many mainstream supermarkets. They’re made from an inactive yeast, meaning they can’t be used to make bread rise. This food is a staple in vegan diets because nutritional yeast is busting with B12, which is mainly found in animal-based foods and not getting enough can lead to depression as well as fatigue, nervousness and memory loss. They may look intimidating, but these flakes are easy to use and have a mild nutty, cheesy flavor. Two rounded teaspoons provide an adult’s daily B12 needs.
Eat it: Sprinkle some on hot popcorn after misting with a garlic and herb infused oil, add a generous spoonful to a pasta sauce in place of Parmesan, or whip up a quick curry dip by blending the flakes with firm tofu, onions, cilantro and curry powder or turmeric.
One Japanese study found that compared with older adults who drank less than 3 cups a week, those who drank more than 2 cups a day had over a 50% lower risk of age-related declines in memory.
Eat it: Enjoy it hot or iced, or cook with it. Use brewed tea as a the base of a broth soup or marinade, or to steam whole grain rice or veggies, and use loose tea leaves as a rub along with garlic and herbs or whip them into fruit smoothies.
They’re a good source of folate. A study conducted at Tufts University followed about 320 men for three years and found that those who had high blood levels of homocysteine showed memory loss, but men who ate foods rich in folate (which directly lowers homocysteine levels) protected their memories. Another Australian study found that eating folate-rich foods was associated with faster information processing and memory recall. After just five weeks of adequate folate, the women in the study showed overall improvements in memory.
Eat it: Enjoy them as is or incorporate them into savory dishes, like garden salads and stir frys.
And to Avoid…
Animal researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and Arizona State University found that rodents fed a typical American diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat, from foods like meat and dairy, suffer from memory impairment, brain inflammation and the impairment of proteins that impact nerve functions.
Another University of Washington in Seattle study looked at the short term and long term effects on the brains of rodents fed American-style cuisine. Within three days the rats not only gained weight, they also developed inflammation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body weight. They also experienced changes typically associated with brain injuries, including stroke and multiple sclerosis.