It’s common knowledge that you need food for energy and muscle repair, but what you might not realize is that certain foods can help to boost your memory, improve your mood, and provide protection against age-related cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson's. As any organ in your body requires nutrients for growth and maintenance, your brain is no exception.
Even at rest, your brain uses somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of your energy intake, and more when you’re problem solving. Now do you understand why it can be difficult to concentrate when you skip a meal?
You should, however, be smart about the foods you choose to fuel your brain, because when it comes to cognition, not all foods are created equal.
We’re talking blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. These fruits get their dark pigments from a class of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants.
Remember, antioxidants are molecules found in foods that aid in inhibiting cell damage. As you age, your cells inevitably become damaged by means of normal metabolic activity.
Think about it like this: when you buy a new cellphone, it works smoothly at high speed. As you download more apps, store more pictures, and maybe even drop it a few times, it slows down and becomes less efficient. Well, the same goes for your brain.
Your brain is also particularly susceptible to oxidative injury thanks to its demanding metabolic rate. This is why it's important to get those antioxidant foods into your diet — to combat cell damage and protect your neurons!
Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and whatever else is in that nut mix! Now let’s refer to the antioxidant concept discussed above for a moment. Nuts are a major source of vitamin E, which is also a potent antioxidant that, according to research, presents promising agents for both prevention and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
Currently, about 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. If measures aren’t taken to prevent or delay its onset, the number of people affected is projected to reach 16 million by 2050. Try making a doggy bag of homemade trail mix to bring to work with you and, if you want to go nuts, throw in some dark chocolate for an added boost of antioxidants.
Hemp, flax & chia seeds
Have you been wondering why it has become trendy to drink chia-infused beverages, add flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal, or swap cow’s milk for hemp milk in your smoothie? Well here’s a good reason: these seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Why do we need omega-3s? They're an essential fatty acid (EFA), meaning our bodies cannot produce them on their own, and therefore we must get enough from our diets. EFAs are important for nervous system function, vision, and immune and inflammatory function.
A number of studies have shown that higher dietary intakes of omega-3s are associated with lower risk of dementia and slower age-related cognitive decline. Furthermore, our brains are made up of about 60 percent fat, so it is imperative that we consume EFAs to provide our brains with adequate reserves.
Just in case you need another reason to get enough greens in your diet! Aside from their fiber and antioxidant content, green leafy vegetables like spinach and turnip greens are sources of B vitamins.
These vitamins are major players when it comes to brain function, and in fact, low levels of B vitamins have been associated with learning and memory dysfunction. Other dietary sources of these guys include dried beans, peas, bell peppers, garlic, and bananas.
We’ve created a smoothie that combines ingredients from all of the above food groups, for the ultimate dose of brain health!
Brain Buster Smoothie
- 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
- 1 handful raw spinach
- ½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter
- ½ cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
Set the hemp seeds aside. Blend all remaining ingredients until mixture appears evenly distributed. Pour in drinking glass and add hemp seeds. Enjoy!