Most of us are anxious about our physical appearance and therefore concentrate on exercise to tone the body and home remedies to take care of our skin and hair. But the brain is one of the most important organs of the body that governs memory, attention, vision, speech and decision but we hardly seem to take any care about it. There are selected foods that can help in nourishing the brain and protect it from free radical damage, while brain exercises can help in enhancing brain power in an effective manner.
Tips to Improve Brain Functions
Before looking into the foods that help in improving brain power, here are a few easy to follow tips that can do a lot to enhance memory and concentration.
- Daily exercise is the best way to expand brain health because it increases blood supply to the brain and promotes healthy neurons.
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of soothing sleep also helps in enhancing brain functions because it helps in regenerating the brain and its functions.
- Improving digestive health by including more prebiotics and probiotics in the diet also has a positive effect on brain health because the gut is closely related to the brain.
- Challenging the mind with brain exercise such as playing chess, solving cross words or puzzles helps improve the capacity of complex reasoning and decision making.
Top 10 Natural Foods to Improve Brain Health
A diet plays an important role not only in determining the physical functions of the body; it equally affects the brain functions, memory and learning capacity of an individual as well. Comprising these foods in your daily diet can bring about positive changes in your memory and concentration and might even protect the brain from age related cognitive decline.
Berries such as blue berries and raspberries are amazing for health because of their high antioxidant content but blueberries are also an effective food for brain that protects the neurons from oxidative stress and reduces the risk of developing degenerative brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A diet rich in blueberries slows down mental aging in areas related to memory and focus and improves the capacity of learning and motor skills. Blueberries can be added in the diet in any form – fresh with fruit salads or frozen sprinkled on top of desserts and yogurt. You can also enjoy a delicious blueberry smooth as a healthy snack between meals.
Deep Water Fish
Wild caught deep water fish like salmon, sardines and herring are a great food for brain enhancement because they are loaded with omega-3 essential fatty acids that are extremely important for proper brain functions. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) existent in omega 3 fatty acids are especially beneficial for the brain and it is the chief essential fatty acid present in the grey matter of the brain and supplementation of this nutrient increases the effectiveness of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain that is directly related to working memory.
Therefore, it is suggested to consume at least a 4 ounce serving, 2 to 3 times every week. Omega 3 fatty acids can also be supplemented in the form of fish oil capsules that are equally effective in providing the benefits.
Avocadoes are equally effective to improve brain health as blueberries. The benefits of avocadoes for health are well known and it is also helpful in boosting brain functions by improving blood flow to the brain, and better blood flow means and healthier brain with improved cognitive abilities. Although known as a fatty fruit, avocados are loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats that help in controlling high blood pressure which is also helpful for maintaining brain health. The antioxidant vitamin E present in avocadoes protects the brain cells from oxidative stress and vitamin K reduces the risk of stroke. It is recommended to have 1/4th to 1/2 of an avocado on a daily basis.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts such as walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts and almonds beneficial to health. Being a rich source of vitamin E, they help in preventing cognitive decline related to aging. Omega 3 fatty acids present in these nuts improve the functions of neurotransmitters. Seeds like sunflower seeds, flax seed and sesame seeds are also good plant based source of omega 3 fatty acids. So, carry a handful of nuts with you as these crunchy things not only make a delicious snack, but a healthy one too. Seeds can be included in daily diet by sprinkling them on curries and salads, or drinking them with fruit juices and smoothies.
The usefulness of coffee for health are numerous and it is also an amazing drink that helps to increase brain function and improve performance by boosting memory and concentration. The stimulant caffeine present in coffee makes one smarter by blocking the inhibitory neurotransmitter known as Adenosine in the brain, which in turn increases transfer of impulses through the neurons and boost up the release of neurotransmitters – dopamine and norepinephrine. The positive effects of coffee on brain are not short term only. Regular consumption of coffee can protect the brain from age related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Peas and Beans
Beans and peas are yet another source of complex carbohydrates that is economical and easily available and helps in promoting a healthy brain. Being rich in soluble and insoluble fibers, the beans take time to break down and be digested, thus providing a steady slow supply of glucose in the blood stream that is carried to the brain for its optimum functions. In addition, beans are a rich source of folate, a B vitamin integral to brain functions and improving memory. So, add a cup of beans to your rice or in your curries to give an innovative touch and enjoy its health benefits.
Like rest of the body parts and organs, the brain also needs constant supply of energy to function effectively and enhance concentration and memory and the glucose present in our blood is the best source of energy for the brain. The most effective source of glucose for the body is carbohydrates, but this must be chosen judiciously for best results. Replace simple carbohydrates like white rice and white flour with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains that have a low glycemic index which take time to break down thus, providing a constant controlled release of glucose into the bloodstream that keeps the brain alert and enhances concentration and memory. Opt for whole wheat breads, wheat bran, brown pasta and brown rice.
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage work as amazing memory foods for brain. These vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that neutralize the negative effects of oxidative damage to the brain cells. Carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin present in cruciferous vegetables have the capacity to travel to brain from the blood stream and protect the brain from free-radical damage that causes age related cognitive decline and memory loss. In addition, they are rich in choline – specific B vitamin that helps in brain development and is helpful in boosting cognitive functions and improving the capacity of learning and memory.
The health benefits of green tea need no new emphasis. A few cups of this nourishing brew supplies load of antioxidants, especially catechines to the body that protects the cells against the harm caused by free radicals and oxidative stress and also promotes blood flow throughout the body. Both green and black tea contains certain level of caffeine that has been shown to improve brain power by boosting focus, concentration and memory. Last but not the list, it also functions as a natural mood boosting drink that helps in lifting a bad mood and depression instantly. So, include 3 to 4 cups of green tea to your daily diet, replace soda and flavored drinks with delicious and refreshing iced tea for a healthy and fit body in the long run.
Let’s end on a sweet note with dark chocolate. We don’t really need any reason to enjoy this delicious food but its high calorie content prevents us from indulging in its taste. But research shows that dark chocolate is one of the most important foods that improve brain function naturally. Dark chocolate is an amazing source of antioxidants that neutralizes the effects of oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.
It also contains the powerful stimulant caffeine that improves memory and concentration and boosts the production of feel good hormones endorphins that works as an instant mood enhancer. So, enjoy this delicious sweet treat without the pinch of guilt, but its best to keep the daily intake under 1/2 to 1 ounce for best results.
Now that you know the easily available food sources for improving brain functions, include them in your daily diet to boost memory and enhance performance.
Image Sources: italiangoodnews.com, nftips.com, treasuretromp.com, premierhealthylivingconcepts.com.