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  • Writer's pictureKim Smolders

Top Brain Foods.

Your brain is one of your most important organs. It is the center of your nervous system, and all your body's functions and systems. The health of your brain is essential for learning, memory, mental energy, mood and behaviour, as well as for the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

There are different areas in the brain that do different things for us, from physiological homeostasis to activating the fight-and-flight response, to thinking & cognition, but I will not delve into the functionality here! In general, the brain perceives stimuli from the environment (such as food, light, sounds, stress, emotions, toxins ...,) to which it activates responses, and obtains & sends signals across the body to keep you safe, healthy, and balanced. The brain is also the place where memory is stored, and learning, cognition and individual growth is happening. It is protected by our skull, like the heart & lungs are protected by our ribs, meaning it is an organ that is essential to life. Looking after it is of crucial importance.

We used to believe, until rather recently even, that the brain was hardwired. We thought that after childhood, our brain could not be repair, regenerate, or replace damaged brain cells. We now know however, that the brain can change its structure based on how we use it, the structure of the brain, and the nutrition we ingest. Neurogenesis, the generation of new brain cells, and neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to adapt, rewire and regenerate itself, is possible and highly affected by lifestyle, nutrition, and other factors.

Supporting the brain.

You can support the brain and neurogenesis in different ways, such as through intermittent fasting, exercise, stress reduction, prioritising sleep, supporting gut health, doing neurobic exercises, reducing your toxic load, supplementation, and optimising your mitochondria, but nutrition is one of the most potent.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in nutrient-dense foods is critical for your brain health. This diet is rich in organic greens, vegetables, low glycemic load foods, herbs, spices, healthy fats, grass-fed meats, and wild caught fish. Begin by removing all inflammatory foods from your life, including sugar, gluten, refined oils, deep-fried & processed foods, conventional dairy, grain-fed meats & eggs, soda & sugary drinks, as well as any other foods that you feel your body is reacting to.

Top brain foods.

1. Wild caught salmon & fatty fish

Wild caught salmon & small fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel & herring are such powerful brain foods. The omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA found in these are a major building block of the brain. DHA is especially important in nerve cell structure and function. It lines and protects the myelin sheath surrounding the nerves, ensuring efficient communication between neurons. EPA plays a key role in the regulation of cellular inflammation, which can reduce depression and the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. Higher intake of omega-3 also supports better brain blood circulation & mood. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.

2. Blueberries

Blueberries are a brain superfood. Due to the high concentration of antioxidant polyphenols they can help maintain brain function, improve mental health, increase concentration, improve memory and even reduce the risk of dementia. The anthocyanins in particular have great antioxidant properties, thus reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain. Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is also increased by these little fruits, which helps ensure the survival of existing brain cells & tissues as well as promote the growth & proliferation of new neurons.

3. Dark leafy greens

We know that leafy greens are the superstars of our health thanks to their nutritional density. But they are also superstars for our brain due to the perfect combination of nutrients they contain - vitamin E, which eases inflammation, folate, helpful in DNA building process & neurotransmitter function, vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, vitamin K, supporting cell membranes, fiber, vital for gut & microbiome health and reducing inflammation & improving mood, magnesium, also known as nature's Valium helps suppress cortisol thereby reducing depression & anxiety, and carotenoids, derived from vitamin A, protect from oxidative stress, preventing neurological diseases & improving cognition. Greens such as kale, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, dandelion greens, spinach & Swiss chard are especially potent.

4. Avocado

I love the avocado, and it is a staple in my kitchen. It is a source of potassium & healthful monounsaturated fat, which keeps cell membranes flexible, and can reduce blood pressure, thus lowering the risk of cognitive decline. It also has many of the nutrients found in leafy greens, adding more nutritional potency to support the brain. The avocado also contains the antioxidants lutein & zeaxanthin that help the brain fight oxidative stress, resulting in better memory & cognition. Read more about the power of the avocado here.

5. Grass-fed, organic beef

Grass-fed organic beef, eaten in moderation, is in fact very essential to health. Like wild caught fish, it is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It is also abundant in vitamin B12, which is only found naturally in proteins sourced from real meat, preventing mental issues like brain fog, fatigue, nerve damage, and decreased brain volume. It also helps to reduce memory loss. Red meat is high in bioavailable iron, helping to reduce fatigue, and increase cognition & performance. The creatine in the meat helps with brain energy metabolism and dealing with stress.

6. Dark chocolate

Maybe my favourite one, dark chocolate, containing 80% cacao or more, is bursting with flavonoids that are brain healthy. They increase blood flow improving memory & helping to prevent mental decline. The high level of magnesium present makes dark chocolate one of the best sources. It helps with anxiety & mood, and reduces inflammation. Potassium is also found in this delicious super food, which has been known to increase focus.

These are just six of the many brain healthy foods that you should be including in your diet on a regular basis. Eating a balanced, whole food diet, rich in nutrients will help keep your mental health, cognition, focus, memory & learning capabilities optimal, and the risk of neurodegeneration low. It will help lift your mood, reduce depression & anxiety and allow you to live a more happy, energetic & productive life.

Research resources (numbers correlate to food list above)


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