Brain Foods (noun)
1. A common term for the consumption of foods that improve cognitive ability.
2. Foods that can positively impact cognitive function and improve moods.
What to start eating for brain health
It’s easy to slip into a comfort food routine when you’re feeling uncomfortable or down, but that mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, and ice cream isn’t the best choice to boost your mood. Sure, it might give you a temporary lift, but wait until your body processes that meal.
As your digestive system breaks down that comfort food and comes up short on nutrients, you could feel worse. It seems crazy to think about how food affects your brain, but studies show a strong correlation.
What is brain food? It’s a collection of foods that provide nutrients our brains need to function, like omega-3 fatty acids, choline, calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. The best part is that it’s surprisingly easy to work many of these brain superfoods into your diet.
Choosing good food for mood and cognitive boosts starts with knowing what to eat and why it matters. Adding some of these brain superfoods into your daily regimen is the first step to improving cognition and mood.
1. Fish oil for brain health
Fatty fish is high on the list of food for your brain because it’s a source of omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA. Factoring fish into your diet might deter cognitive decline and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s thought that omega-3s support brain cells in the gray matter for healthier brain function.
While a lot of fish is on the foods to avoid list for pregnant women, you still have some options. Pass on the mackerel, but you can get your share of DHA and other fish oil from salmon and sardines.
If you can’t have fish, omega-3 supplements can also provide brain benefits.
2. Best berries for brain health
Grab a handful of blueberries for a boost in brainpower. Berries are some of the best brain foods because they contain antioxidants, like flavonoids. Berries improve brain cell communication and reduce inflammation throughout your body to support overall physical health.
Some studies have shown blueberries can even improve memory and delay short-term memory loss.
3. Is dark chocolate good for your brain?
If you desperately need some comfort food, turn to dark chocolate. While you shouldn’t overdo it with chocolate, dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants that can fight off free radicals and combat oxidative stress. Sugar and the brain don’t mix well, so look for quality dark chocolate comprised of at least 70% cacao.
4. Seeds and nuts for brain health
Snacking is often a must, and that’s where seeds and nuts can help. Nothing is easier than snacking on a handful of trail mix! Make a trail mix with nuts and seeds to get a healthy serving of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, like vitamin E. Some of your best choices are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds.
5. Whole grains
Whole grains can round out any meal and anchor a solid diet for brain health. Adding brown rice, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, and whole-grain bread or pasta provides a good source of vitamin E. Plus, whole grains contain traces of the minerals we need, like iron and magnesium.
6. Leafy greens
If you’re feeling anxious or down, make a salad with foods that reduce depression and anxiety, like kale, arugula, and spinach. Leafy greens contain vitamin K, fiber, and B vitamins such as folate that can boost your mood and brain function.
Broccoli might be one of the world’s greatest superfoods. This vegetable offers health benefits ranging from eye and heart health to boosting the immune system. Broccoli is low in calories but loaded with essential nutrients, including vitamin C and potassium.
Avocados are a leading source of healthy fats that help bodies regulate blood flow and lower LDL cholesterol – sometimes known as bad cholesterol. Those healthy, unsaturated fats happen to contain several vitamins and minerals that support cognitive health as well.
Turmeric is an herb commonly used in curry powder that packs a punch in terms of brain health. It’s been studied as a medicinal treatment for a range of conditions, including dementia and traumatic brain injuries. Turmeric has some anti-inflammatory properties and might reduce the effects of conditions like depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Did you know that one medium-sized orange contains all the vitamin C you need for a day? That’s a massive brain boost in a single serving because vitamin C is a key to fighting cognitive impairment as we age.
11. Green tea
Green tea is a lovely, warm drink when you want to sit and relax. But it also contains amino acids that boost serotonin and other neurotransmitters. So, while it’s boosting your mood it‘s also improving your brain function.
Flax seeds are another easy way to fit a brain-boosting food into your diet. Sprinkle some seeds over your salad or oatmeal for a boost of omega-3 fats plus a healthy dose of fiber and a little protein. Aside from supporting a healthy brain, flax seeds improve digestion and can reduce the risk of heart disease.
13. Olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet – recognized as a healthy option for many people. One of the benefits of using olive oil is its impact on cognitive function due to its high concentration of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
You might want to consider legumes as a staple when you’re pregnant. Garbanzo beans, black beans, lima beans, and lentils are versatile for meals, but they also pack a powerful nutritional punch. Legumes contain a healthy dose of folic acid, which supports cognitive skills and fetal brain development.
Eating for brain health
The correlation between food, mood, and cognition has been heavily researched. What we put into our bodies affects everything from our blood pressure to cognitive function and that’s why brain foods matter.
If you have any dietary questions or concerns, it’s best to speak with your physician or a nutritionist to create a meal plan loaded with healthy foods.
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