Foods with high sugar content and trans fats are clogging up our mental pathways and leaving us feeling dull, tired, anxious and depressed. These top Brain foods, on the other hand, give us energy, clear the communication channels within the body and brain, and help us feel alert, focused, positive and productive.
To optimize our mental clarity and focus we are looking for foods that are rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals. These foods are the building blocks to protect, repair and build healthy brain cells.
Our gut is often referred to as our second brain. The health of our digestive system truly is the key to the health of the whole body so consider maximizing your digestive system as maximizing your brain power. We are what we eat – so eat smarter to think smarter.
Start incorporating these top brain foods into your diet on a weekly basis and then be aware of how your thoughts, mood and outlook on life start improving.
In particular Wild Salmon, Lake Trout, Herring, Mackerel and Sardines, Albacore Tuna. These fish are high in;
• Omega-3’s which are the building blocks for the brain and nervous system cells, plus they are anti-inflammatory which is key to preventing brain fog, depression and brain dementia disorders.
• Proteins that convert to serotonin and dopamine which help us feel more positive
• Vitamin B12, also essential for a positive outlook and neural health
Not all fish are high in the healthy Omega-3 oils. Other canned tuna and farmed Atlantic Salmon do not give us the same health benefits and are high in other toxins.
It’s recommended to eat 12 oz of fish high in Omega-3’s per week.
Healthy oils contain monounsaturated fats and powerful antioxidants which studies show help memory and cognitive function and improve mood outlook. Trans-fats, on the other hand, are linked to poor cognitive skills and increasing symptoms of depression.
Choose cold pressed and extra virgin oil to get the benefit in the oils as heat and chemical extraction techniques convert these healthy oils into the unhealthy trans-fat versions plus leave a toxic residue in the oils. Check out this list of which oils are safe and not safe to use for cooking; Healthy Cooking Oils. My top picks are olive oil for dressings and coconut oil for cooking.
Oils that are extracted with heat and chemical solvents such as Canola and Soy oils are no longer healthy building blocks for the body or brain. Even Olive Oil can be subject to these same processes by companies looking to increase yields quickly. You get what you pay for and if you find a “deal” on extra-virgin olive oil be wary of olive oil fraud. Several companies have some under scrutiny because what they market as extra-virgin or cold-pressed has been mixed with other lower grade oils. Choose organic whenever possible to maximize health benefits and reduce toxicity.
It is recommended to to have 2 tablespoons of healthy fats per day.
Eggs are back on the good list, event the yolk! Recent studies have shown that egg yolks contain choline which is essential for quick thinking and memory. Eggs also contain protein, vitamin B12, tryptophan and Omega 3 fatty acids. These contribute to improved mood and brain health.
Free-range and organic eggs are healthier. If what we eat makes a difference it follows that what the chicken eats plays a huge part in the healthy nutrients found in eggs. Free range chickens allowed to feed on grass and insects produce eggs higher in Omega-3 oils, Vitamin A and E and up to 7 times more beta-carotene which is essential for eye health. Plus these eggs are lower in antibiotics and toxins found in mass produced eggs.
Recommended to have between 2 – 6 free range eggs / week.
Often called the world’s most perfect food. Avocados contain the same healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and are excellent sources of vitamins B, C, E, K and folate.
The combination of fats and vitamins help the body absorb the vitamins and nutrients in your meal which makes these a great addition to your nutrient dense smoothies. These nutrients improve memory and focus and help stabilize energy levels throughout the day.
Avocados also contain the building blocks for dopamine, the feel good hormone that helps us stay motivated and on task.
Recommended to have up to 1/2 avocado per day.
It doesn’t take much of these nutrient rich foods to make a big impact on your health. The top spices for brain health are; Turmeric, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, and Ginger.
• Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent that protects the brain and body from inflammation.
• Rosemary Oil is one of our favourite essential oils for brain health and these properties are also present in the fresh herb. High in carsonic acid it helps protect the brain from free-radicals and improves eyesight.
• Cinnamon has been found to improve memory, reduce inflammation and stimulate new brain cell growth. Cinnamon also helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels in the body.
• Black Pepper helps protect the brain from degenerative diseases and aids in the formation or serotonin and melatonin reducing anxiety and controlling sleep cycles.
• Ginger contains curcumin and is rich in antioxidants that protect the brain from toxins and regulate blood sugar levels in the brain, especially important for diabetics. Ginger is also key to adrenal health.
Recommended daily dose of 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of spice per day.
High in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre leafy greens such as Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard and Romaine Lettuce help to boost your brain power.
• Rich in Vitamins B and K these leafy vegetables help to improve memory and cognitive abilities. The high Vitamin C content is known to help improve mood and relieve depression.
• Antioxidants and Magnesium help to reduce inflammation and protect the nervous system from toxins.
• High fibre content helps maintain good digestion and improve absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Recommended minimum daily serving of 1 cup of dark leafy greens.
While all fruits contain essential vitamins, nutrients and fibre, berries are also rich in flavonoids which are powerful antioxidants that protect the brain and improve learning, decision making and memory.
Berries are also high in resveratrol which is where Red Wine comes in. Resveratrol enhances brain connectivity, function and memory. Berries being the better source without the added sugar high and adverse effects of alcohol. However, many studies show that one glass of red wine per day is helpful for digestion and brain health.
Frozen berries are just as, if not more healthy, than fresh as they are picked closer to ripe and frozen immediately to maintain freshness. Choose organic berries when possible, especially strawberries which top the Dirty Dozen list of foods affected by pesticides.
Recommended to have 3-4 servings of berries per week.
Full of flavonoids chocolate helps brain cells live longer and promotes brain cell growth and plasticity. These flavonoids are said to increase blood flow to the brain to increase reaction time and help with problem solving.
Eating chocolate in it’s raw form is definitely worth developing a taste for. The added sugar mixed into milk chocolate has many detrimental effects on the body and brain. This is an area you need to splurge a little and savour a small square of chocolate instead of eating a whole bar of lesser quality.
Recommended to enjoy 1.3 to 3 oz per day.
There are of course many more healthy foods that will improve our cognitive abilities, use this as a place to start and once your brain starts to clear you will be more likely to choose foods that support you and your brain.
Instead of your diet being driven by your belly, use your belly to focus your brain. It’s far more fun to choose foods that will make us smarter instead of slimmer or healthier.
Check out these blog posts for more on nourishing a healthy brain:
Share in the comments below your favourite ways for including these foods into your diet.
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