So many super foods, so little time. How do we make a decision? When considering what nutrient-packed additions would go best with our morning smoothie, the list of possibilities seems endless. But if you’re looking to feel more clear and energized, you may enjoy some help from some of these powerful super foods. Mix and match from these six add-ons that are packed with phytonutrients to boost your brainpower:
1. MCT oil:
Eating fat won’t necessarily make you fat. In fact, some types may actually help you lose weight while improving your cognitive health. MCT oil, also known as medium-chain triglycerides, is a particularly fascinating supplement because the body rapidly metabolizes these fats into ketones, which not only suppress fat deposition, but they serve as an alternative energy source1 for neurons and are known to protect the brain. Research is now finding2 that MCT oil may have a therapeutic effect on patients with Alzheimer’s disease by supporting mental clarity and memory.
When choosing MCT oil, look for brands that contain a higher concentration of short-chain fats: more "C8" than "C10" (the numbers refer to how long the carbon chain is). The shorter the fat, the quicker the body can turn it into fast and usable energy. MCT can be a great substitute for those seeking to limit their caffeine intake or increase afternoon energy levels. Start with 1 teaspoon per day and gradually increase—but do this slowly as too much MCT can upset your stomach.
Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb that was traditionally used for its adaptogenic qualities because it helps to reduce stress and anxiety by increasing GABA levels. (GABA is known as the calming neurotransmitter.) Use powdered ashwagandha root and start with a small amount—some people have reported it to be more sedating than stimulating.
3. Bee pollen:
Bee pollen is exactly what it sounds like: It’s made from flower pollen harvested and packed by worker honeybees. It has adaptogenic properties that increase3 memory function and improve our ability to think, learn, and concentrate. It's also a great source of B vitamins, which are essential for the body’s energy and neurotransmitter pathways, helping you to think more clearly and move more energetically.
Bee pollen has a subtle and sweet flavor and can serve as a beautiful garnish. You can blend it straight into your normal smoothie, but if you’re itching for something new, try this delicious turmeric smoothie.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb and antioxidant that stimulates cognitive function, reduces mental fatigue, and increases exercise performance. But what makes this root especially intriguing is its antidepressant qualities. The phytonutrients found in rhodiola affect mood and energy by regulating neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. A quick warning: It’s easy to get hooked. If you’re a creature of habit, it’s considered best to take a break every two weeks to maximize its efficacy.
Maca is a South American vegetable root originally found in Peru and Bolivia. It's traditionally used to improve memory and regulate cortisol release. Enjoy the ground root powder for its distinct caramel and malt-like flavor—a delicious addition to any shake.
6. Chia (omega-3s):
These magical little seeds are not only fun to eat, but they’re a phenomenal source of omega-3 fats, which are essential4 for brain development, neuron function, and mental clarity. Omega-3 fats are normally found in seafood, which makes chia seeds a great alternative for vegans and vegetarians who want to get their omega-3s from whole food sources. Chia will act as a thickener, so start with 1 teaspoon and increase the amount based on your texture preference.
Miriam Jacobson is a registered dietitian, certified nutrition specialist, and certified dietitian nutritionist living in Los Angeles. She received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master's in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport. She is also a registered yoga teacher. She works with clients suffering from digestive problems and mood and energy imbalances to help them regain balance through food and nutrients. It is her mission to help individuals find more balance in their bodies and a peaceful relationship with food.