Did you know you can eat your way to better brain health? That’s right! Certain foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants can help support improved mental function and cognition. A diet consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains provides your body and your brain with all of the vitamins and minerals needed to keep it in great shape. And when your brain is performing at its peak, it is able to assist in the overall high-functioning throughout your body!
What is cognition?
Cognition refers to the “process by which knowledge and understanding is developed in the mind.” The cognitive functions of the brain refer to thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving. Although classified as an organ, the brain is like a muscle in the sense that you can train it to strengthen its mental functions. Through simple exercises and lifestyle choices, you can constantly improve your memory and ability to solve problems. And when you eat specific foods that contain brain-boosting nutrients, your brain is able to perform all of these functions with more ease and sharpness. Let’s look at what some of these foods are.
While it is important to remember that food alone will not be the sole source for high mental alertness, it should definitely be a focus when considering which types of foods to include more of in your diet. In your pursuit to boost your brain’s capabilities, here are some foods you’ll want to ensure are incorporated onto your plates. Eat up!
Veggies truly are superfoods! They offer several minerals that support cognitive functions, are low-calorie, and they protect against cancer and other diseases. For boosting brain health, focus on eating more dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. Vegetables that are rich in B vitamins, vitamin K, lutein, and beta-carotene may help slow down cognitive decline, which as the brain and body age, is certainly something we want to take into consideration when choosing our foods. You can steam, roast, bake, or grill your favorite veggies to experiment with which textures you prefer. And don’t forget to season your vegetables with herbs and spices to bring out their natural flavors.
Fruits like berries and cherries are potent sources of antioxidants that assist in supporting memory function. Dark berries are rich in polyphenols that help protect the neurons in the brain against injury brought on by neurotoxins. These antioxidants can also suppress neuroinflammation and help prevent and reverse age-dependent reasons for cognitive decline. Opt for berries in the morning with a bowl of oatmeal or throw them into a fruit smoothie. Citrus fruits like oranges make delicious, brain and immune-system boosting mid-day snacks that also work to fight off neurodegeneration. Another way to eat more fruit is to add slices of your favorite fruit into your glasses of water throughout the day to give it more flavor and help you stay hydrated.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats are one of the best sources of brain-boosting foods available. They aid in building the brain’s structure and regulating its performance. Several studies have shown links between omega-3s and benefits that include defending off cognitive decline, Azheimer’s disease, and depression. Keep in mind that the brain is made up of mostly fat, and by consuming healthy fat sources, you are helping to improve your memory and protect against brain-related diseases. Opt for adding seafood, algae, fatty fish, flaxseeds, avocados, and walnuts to your diet to boost your brainpower.
Making Peace With Fats
Considering that about 60% of the brain is composed of fat, it is critical to include healthy fat sources in your daily diet. They are essential and serve as a necessity for the brain and body. Fats allow our bodies to absorb vitamins, and when fat is lacking, the immune system can be weakened. Not only that, but they are a source of energy to fuel body functions and activities, and are also vital to biological functions such as growth and development. The body needs approximately 20-35% of its total daily calories from healthy fats, making it the perfect opportunity to make peace with fats! Just keep in mind that not all fats are created equal and that you’ll want to focus on eating more unsaturated fats than saturated ones.
The secret to improving your brain performance is to find the balance between healthy, nutritious foods and well-being-based hobbies and lifestyle choices. Some of these lifestyle practices that can contribute to improving cognitive functioning include:
- regular physical exercise – Whether you endure an hour of intense, sweat-producing workouts at your local gym or prefer milder, light exercising such as going for a nice walk or simple at-home workouts, your brain benefits from movement! Make it a daily habit to get in at least 30 minutes of exercise to keep your brain and body in shape.
- getting adequate sleep – The brain is able to process all of the events and information from the day during its sleeping hours. Be sure to aim for at least 6-8 hours of deep rest a night so that your brain can restore itself. Sleep is the ultimate charger for your brain to be on full power!
- remaining social – Humans are social creatures who thrive in environments that include other people. See friends and family when you can and try to involve yourself in community-based activities to give your brain the social boost it needs.
- staying mentally active – Puzzles, reading, painting, or any other brain-stimulating activities keeps the brain working. Indulge in your favorite brain-supporting hobbies daily. This may include crosswords, sudoku, word searches, or writing.
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