Herbs And Health 10 Best Foods For The Brain - Herbs And Health

10 Best Foods For The Brain

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10 Best Foods For The Brain
Graphic – herbsandhealth.net. Image sources – see foot of article

Every bite of food you eat can affect your body. But, what about the effect food can have on the brain? It’s been established that foods that are rich in sugar and trans fats can leave you feeling anxious and depressed while those that are high in nutrients can help make you mentally sharp, positive, and productive.

The best of these have even been called “brain foods” and scientific researchers have found that they can do remarkable things for your mental well-being.

Several studies had acknowledged the mind-gut connection in relation to the immune system and the role of food in either preventing or causing certain sickness. One of these is by Wang and Kasper [1] who explored the influence of microbiome in central nervous system disorders. According to the study, the gut plays a key role in regulating our immune response, so what we eat can make a direct difference in our body.

In short, it’s highly advisable to pay more attention to the foods that you are eating. Nutrient, dense, whole foods can help you clear the body of toxins that are affecting your brain negatively. So, here are ten super-foods that you need to incorporate into your diet.

1. Blueberries

This tasty fruit contains antioxidants that stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. These antioxidants are called flavonoids and are also found in green tea, wine, grapes, and cocoa. Another antioxidant group found in blueberries is anthocyanins whose impact on degenerative diseases has been explored by past studies. According to Krikorian et. al. [2], daily consumption of blueberry juice can improve memory in older adults. The study links anthocyanins with increased neuronal signaling in the brain centers mediating memory function. It highlights the neurocognitive benefit offered by moderate-term blueberry supplementation to older adults with early memory decline.

2. Anchovies

Anchovy is a small fish that is “swimming” with brain-benefitting fatty acids. It contains ten times as many omega-3s as tuna, and a healthy dose of immune-regulating vitamin D. Omega-3 are one of the most important nutrients for your brain health and mental well-being. Increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been associated by past studies with reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline. In 2014, Witte and colleagues reported the positive effects of higher intake of seafish or oil rich in long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids [3] on brain functions in healthy older adults.

3. Tomatoes

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes. This bright red carotene (carotenoid pigment) and phytochemical compound is also found in red carrots, watermelons, and papayas. Scientific studies show that lycopene can destroy free radicals which wreak havoc on your immune system and occur in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Lycopene also has a protective effect on ischemic brain injury, according to Hsiao et. al [4]. The 2004 study highlights the role of lycopene’s antioxidant property in reducing infarct volume in reperfusion brain injury.

4. Avocados

This pear-shaped fruit is almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health. Avocados contain monounsaturated fats which contribute to healthy blood flow – which equates with a healthy brain. Long-deemed as too fatty, the green fruit is now established as a goldmine of nutrients that positively affect brain health. A review published in the July 2008 issue of the journal “Nature Reviews Neuroscience” shows the impact of the right nutrients [5] in improving brain function, such as memory and concentration. One of the nutrients found in avocados was discovered to ameliorate cognitive impairment after brain trauma, reducing cognitive decay in the elderly.

5. Nuts

Nuts are another great source of Vitamin E which might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly, says a 1999 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Vitamin E was one of the serum antioxidants investigated by the study and their association with levels and poor memory performance in elderly, multiethnic Americans [6]. The study noted the consistent link between decreasing serum levels of vitamin E and increasing levels of poor memory.

6. Eggs

Choline, a B-vitamin-like nutrient is abundant in those bright, round yolks. This macronutrient is important for normal brain development. Your brain uses choline to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter for maintaining memory and communication among brain cells. The relation between dietary choline to cognitive performance [7] was the focus of a study that first appeared in the December 2011 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research by Poly et. al. presented evidence on the association between loss of cholinergic neurons and memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

7. Broccoli

This leafy vegetable is high in compounds called glucosinates, which have neuroprotective properties. More natural compounds with pharmacological properties are being discovered for the management of neurodegenerative diseases. Glucosinates, which are mainly found in Brassica vegetables, are one of them. Brassica veggies also include cauliflower, kale, radish, arugula, and mustard greens. The hydrolysis of corresponding glucosinates produces isothiocyanates which according to a 2015 study [8] have neuroprotective effects for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

8. Coconut Oil

There is a lot of buzz about coconut oil. This food was previously maligned due to its saturated fat content. But recent studies have shown that a little bit of coconut oil provides a healthy dose of medium-chain fats, which – interestingly – are one of the factors for igniting your body’s fat-burning furnace. Ketones, which fuel the brain, are created during this process. So, what are the benefits of coconut oil for brain health? A ketogenic diet could have beneficial effects in a broad range of brain disorders [9], according to a 2006 study by Maciej et. al that was published in the journal Behavioral Pharmacology. Another study [10] underlined the importance of ketogenic diet in improving memory performance in Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Dark Chocolate

Although it sounds too good to be true, a few ounces of chocolate are actually good for your memory and blood pressure. Please note that it’s the cacao, not the sugar. This delicious treat also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that improve your mood. Chocolates also have serotonin which acts as an anti-depressant. They contain nutrients called cocoa flavanols which can reduce some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction, as discovered by a 2014 study [11] published by the American Society for Nutrition. Another study [12], found out the positive influence of flavanols on psychological processes.

10. Oatmeal

This carb-rich food provides energy that is needed by your brain to work. Oatmeal contains glucose which is sent by the body to your brain, fuelling better memory and concentration. Consuming organic oatmeal is ideal to avoid brain-killing high-fructose corn syrup and other harmful additives. Low glucose levels in the blood are linked to poor attention and cognitive function. A 2013 study explored the role of glucose metabolism in sustaining basic brain psychology. [13] The study highlighted the dependence of the brain on glucose as its obligatory fuel.


[1] Wang Y, Kasper LH. (2014). The role of microbiome in central nervous system disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24370461

[2] Krikorian R et. al. (2010). Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850944/

[3] Witte AV et. al. (2014). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function and structure in older adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796946

[4] Hsiao G et. al. (2004). A potent antioxidant, lycopene, affords neuroprotection against microglia activation and focal cerebral ischemia in ratshttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15341191

[5] Gomez-Pinilla P. (2008). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v9/n7/full/nrn2421.html#B119

[6] Perkins AJ. (1999). Association of antioxidants with memory in a multiethnic elderly sample using the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10400551

[7] Poly C. (2011). The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22071706

[8] Giacoppo S et. al. (2015). An overview on neuroprotective effects of isothiocyanates for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26254971

[9] Maciej G et. al. (2006). Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2367001/

[10] Reger MA et. al. (2004). Effects of beta-hydroxybutyrate on cognition in memory-impaired adults https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15123336

[11] Mastroiacovo D et. al. 2014. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Studyóa randomized controlled trial http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/12/16/ajcn.114.092189

[12] Scholey AB et. al. (2010). Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19942640

[13] Mergenthaler P et. al. (2013). Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3900881/

Infographic photo sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fancy_raw_mixed_nuts_macro.jpg (CC)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Coconut_and_oil.jpg (CC)

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