The food that we eat affect our overall health and body. Our brain is a superficial organ which controls all the important functioning of our body. The food that we eat are beneficial to our brain in many ways. A healthy, balanced diet is not just good for bodies, it’s good for brain power too. The right foods can improve brain function, memory, and concentration. Like the body, the brain absorbs nutrients from the foods we eat. Our bodies don’t like stress. Who does? When we’re stressed out whether it’s physical, like someone jumps out at you from a dark alley, or mental, like you have a major project due at work — our bodies release inflammatory cytokines.
These little chemicals prompt the immune system to kick in and fight back against the stress through inflammation, as though stress is an infection. While inflammation helps protect us against illnesses and repairs the body when you do something like cut yourself, chronic inflammation is a different animal. It’s been linked to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, anxiety, high blood pressure and more.But what does this all have to do with food? Our gut helps keep our body’s immune responses and inflammation under control. Additionally, gut hormones that enter the brain or are produced in the brain influence cognitive ability, like understanding and processing new information, staying focused on the task at hand and recognizing when we’re full.
Plus, brain foods rich in antioxidants, good fats, vitamins and minerals provide energy and aid in protecting against brain diseases. So when we focus on giving our bodies whole, nutritious foods benefiting both the gut and the brain, we’re actually benefiting our minds and bodies while keeping them both in tip-top shape. Of course, some foods are better for your brain than others. I’ve rounded up 16 brain foods you should be eating to feed both your mind and body. With a mix of fruits, veggies, oils and even chocolate (yes, chocolate!), there’s something to please everyone.
16 foods for brain development
1. Avocados are brain-friendly
This fruit is one of the healthiest ones you can consume and one of my all-time favorites. While avocados often get a bad rep because of their high fat content, it’s important to note that these green powerhouses are packed with mono saturated fats or the “good” kind, keeping blood sugar levels steady and your skin glowing.
Containing both vitamin K and folate, avocados help prevent blood clots in the brain (protecting against stroke) as well as help improve cognitive function, especially both memory and concentration. They’re also rich in vitamin B and vitamin C, which aren’t stored in your body and need to be replenished daily. Plus, they have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit. Not too shabby! Avocados’ creamy texture makes them a smart addition to smoothies and a replacement for fats in baked goods.
2. Salmon is a brain food
Fatty fish, such as salmon, is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for brain growth and function. Getting enough of these fatty acids can help kids improve their mental skills. Make salmon sandwiches (on whole wheat bread) instead of tuna for a healthy alternative.
3. Beets helps to develop your brain
It might be their funny shape or memories of bad recipes eaten during childhood, but beets seem to be an intimidating food for many people, even vegetable lovers. That’s a shame, because these root vegetables are some of the most nutritious plants you can eat — they’ve even earned a spot on my healthy foods shopping list.
They reduce inflammation, are high in cancer-protecting antioxidants and help rid your blood of toxins. The natural nitrates in beets actually boost blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance. Plus, during tough workouts, beets actually help boost energy and performance levels. I love them roasted or in salads — try my sweet potato beet hash or beet and goat cheese salad for some creative new ways to eat this brain food.
4. Peanut butter are good for brain power
Kids love peanut butter, and that’s a good thing since this healthy snack is packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects nerve membranes. It also has thiamin, which is good for the brain, and glucose which gives energy. Peanut butter makes a great dip for fruits such as bananas, and for veggies such as celery.
5. Bone broth heals brain
Bone broth is the ultimate food for healing your gut and, in turn, healing your brain. This ancient food is full of health benefits, ranging from boosting your immune system, overcoming leaky gut, improving joint health and overcoming food allergies.
Its high levels of collagen help reduce intestinal inflammation, and healing amino acids like proline and glycine keep your immune system functioning properly and help improve memory. Bone broth is what I prescribe most frequently to my patients because it truly helps heal your body from the inside out.
6. Berries are good for the brain power
Though it is hard to find a fruit that isn’t good for your brain, berries of all kinds, especially blueberries, have one of the strongest concentrations of phytochemicals available. These phytochemicals that make berries so colourful have been linked by research to better memory, learning, reasoning skills, decision-making, verbal comprehension, and numerical ability. Get your child relish berries for a dose of nutrients called polyphenols. Dark chocolate chips are another option for polyphenols. These nutrients are said to keep the mind sharp by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Studies have shown improved memory with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries. How about adding berries to yoghurt, hot or cold cereal, or dips?
7. Nuts are soul foods for brain power
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains. Packed with protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, nuts and seeds are helpful for mood boost and keep the nervous system in check. Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes. Thiamine helps the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy. A must for your kids.
8. Colorful veggies enhance brain power
Vegetables with rich, deep color are an excellent source of antioxidants to keep the brain cells healthy. Some veggies to include in your child’s diet are tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, or spinach. It’s easy to sneak veggies into spaghetti sauces or soups.
Replace potato or corn chips in your child’s lunch with baked sweet potato wedges or easy-to-snack-on veggies such as sugar snap peas or baby carrots.
9. Milk and yogurt for brain power
B vitamins are necessary for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes, and dairy products are a good source for these nutrients. Low fat milk or yogurt is great sources of protein and carbohydrates foe the brain. Dairy is also an excellent source of vitamin D, which children and teens need in greater amounts than adults. Low-fat cheese sticks make a great to-go snack and are a good source of calcium.
10. Broccoli for brain power
Your mom got it right when she told you to eat your broccoli. It’s one of the best brain foods out there. Thanks to its high levels of vitamin K and choline, it will help keep your memory sharp. It’s also loaded with vitamin C — in fact, just one cup provides you with 150 percent of your recommended daily intake. Its high-fiber levels mean that you’ll feel full quickly, too.
11. Celery helps in brain development
For a vegetable with such few calories (just 16 per cup!), celery sure does offer a lot of benefits. Its high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides act as natural anti-inflammatories and can help alleviate symptoms related to inflammation, like joint pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
Because it’s so nutrient-dense — packing loads of vitamins, minerals and nutrients with very little calories — it’s a great snack option if you’re looking to shed pounds. And while we often eat celery stalks, don’t skip the seeds and leaves; both provide extra health benefits and taste great in things like stir fries and soups.
12. Oatmeal for brain power
Oats and oatmeal are excellent sources of energy and brain “fuel.” Oats are packed with fiber to help keep kids feeling full so they don’t snack on junk food. They are also an excellent source of vitamins E, B complex, and zinc to help kids’ brains work their best. Oatmeal can be a base for almost any topping such as apples, bananas, blueberries or even almonds.
13. Dark chocolate for brain development
Not all chocolate is created equal; in fact, dark chocolate can actually be good for you! Chocolate is chockfull of flavonols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart. But don’t go wild munching on Hershey’s Kisses just yet. Most of the chocolate you see on supermarket shelves is highly processed with few benefits. The rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more health benefits. Skip milk and white chocolates and opt for a minimally processed dark chocolate with at least 70 percent of cocoa. This ensures you’ll get your choco fix and its brain benefits.
14. Egg yolks for brain power
On the nutritional naughty list for years, egg yolks are finally experiencing their well-deserved day in the sun. If you’ve been eating only egg whites, the yolk’s on you. Yolks contain large amounts of choline, which helps in fetal brain development for pregnant women. It also breaks down bethane, a chemical that produces hormones related to happiness. That’s right, eggs can make you happy! If you’ve kept away from eating eggs whole because of cholesterol concerns, there’s good news. Studies show that eating eggs had no effect on the cholesterol levels of healthy adults and might, in fact, help raise good cholesterol levels. It’s also one of the most inexpensive sources of protein out there; just be sure you’re buying organic, free-range eggs.
15. Green leafy veggies for brain power
Full of folate and vitamins, spinach and kale are linked to lower odds of getting dementia later in life. Kale is a super food, packed with antioxidants and other things that help new brain cells grow.
How to Serve It: For some kids, greens are a hard sell. So rather than serving a salad, you may want to try some different ideas:
- Whip spinach or kale into smoothies for snack time.
- Add spinach to omelets or lasagna.
- Make kale chips. Cut kale from stems/ribs, drizzle with olive oil and a bit of salt, and bake.
16. Turmeric for brain development
Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently. This deep-yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a number of benefits for the brain. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there. It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:
- May benefit memory: Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease.
- Eases depression: It boosts serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood. One study found curcumin improved depression symptoms just as much as an antidepressant over six weeks.
- Helps new brain cells grow: Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed.
To reap the benefits of curcumin, try cooking with curry powder, adding turmeric to potato dishes to turn them golden or making turmeric tea
In Ayurveda, Brahmi is known as a brain tonic and has been traditionally used to promote memory and a healthy central nervous system. Brahmi or Bacopa contains the saponins called bacosides, which increase the efficiency of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Its antioxidant and neuroprotective actions enhance mental function and ease anxiety. Many foods can help keep your brain healthy. Some foods, such as the fruits and vegetables in this list, as well as tea and coffee, have antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage. Others, such as nuts and eggs, contain nutrients that support memory and brain development. You can help support your brain health and boost your alertness, memory and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.