You already know that what you eat affects how you look and how you feel. But did you know that certain foods can do a lot to boost your memory and concentration? Whether you’re going back to school or back to work, get smart and make sure to include these brain-charging foods in your daily diet.
Best Foods for Brains
Powerful antioxidants in blueberries help increase your brain’s ability to send signals quickly and improve its capacity to store information. They also help boost your mental health by stimulating neural regeneration in your brain and enhancing memory.
How to use: Blueberries are a wonderful addition to your morning bowl of cereal or fruit smoothie. Or just eat them as they are.
Raw Cacao Powder
Not all cacao is created equal! Unlike the refined kind, raw cacao is minimally processed so it retains much higher levels of antioxidants and other important nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium, vital to brain function and improve cognitive performance. Raw cacao also elevates mood by boosting endorphins – our body’s own, natural opiates.
How to use: Just like normal cocoa powder, but you will need to add some sort of sweetener – like maple syrup. Enjoy in hot drinks, smoothies, porridge, cookies, cakes and to make raw chocolate and desserts. Eat a few squares of cacao-rich dark chocolate next time you’re feeling the pressure!
Green tea helps you focus for two reasons: one, it contains caffeine, and two, it contains L theanine. Caffeine helps you focus and improves your alertness. L theanine is an amino acid that’s been shown to “increase alpha-wave activity”, which increases tranquility and releases caffeine more slowly, instead of all at once, leading to spikes and crashes. These two ingredients also combine to increase your ability to focus attention, improving both speed and accuracy.
How to use: If you’re able to handle the caffeine content, introducing green tea into your diet is pretty much a no-brainer. Drink up to 4 cups daily.
Pumpkin seeds have an abundance of zinc, which functions to increase your memory, problem solving abilities and mental speed. In addition, they are a good source of glutamate, needed to make GABA (the anti-stress brain chemical) and niacin, which enhances GABA activity in the brain and helps reduce stress.
How to use: Great on their own as a snack, or added to salads, granola or trail mix
They may be small, but these “superseeds” pack a powerful nutritional punch. Chia seeds were consumed thousands of years ago by the Aztecs and the Mayans, people who understood their ability to provide lasting energy and stamina – chia comes from the Mayan word for strength. Today, researchers are rediscovering the nutritional value of chia seeds, including their rich omega-3 fatty acid content – essential for mental health and brain function.
How to use: Eat them raw or sprinkle on your salad, add to baked goods, porridge, pancakes and granola. Chia seeds go undetected in a smoothie so a great way to boost omegas for kids without them knowing! Aim for between 1 and 2 tablespoons a day.
Coconut oil is thought to be among the most effective ways to improve healthy brain function as it provides rich supply of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). These fats are easily converted into fuel that helps boost your energy and endurance while helping support your learning abilities and memory retention. Research also suggests that coconut oil is useful for treating Alzheimer’s disease.
How to use: You can add coconut oil to smoothies, desserts, in tea and coffee, in baked goods, cookies, pancakes, granola, dressing and sauces. Coconut oil is also a great base for your raw chocolate and sweet treats.
Maca powder is made from the root of a Peruvian radish-like plant. In South America, it has been appreciated it for thousands of years for its positive effect on energy levels and endurance. Maca is now gaining popularity as a libido booster (it is known as herbal Viagra) and it general strengthening effects on the body. It’s also has a positive effect on mental health, improving academic ability and memory, while combating anxiety, tension, and depression.
How to use: Maca is best enjoyed in a smoothie but can be added to cereals, porridge, pancakes, scrambled eggs and soups. Maca is a powerful Superfood, so it’s best to increase your dosage gradually. Start off by taking ¼ teaspoon daily and don’t exceed 2 teaspoons daily. Store in a cool dry place.
A good source of easily digestible protein, spirulina is a blue-green alga that is rich in many of the essential amino acids that are only available through food. It also contains essential fatty acids, as well as many other vitamins and minerals necessary for proper brain health. Spirulina is high in antioxidants (including vitamin E, selenium and carotenoids) that help prevent degenerative disease. Some studies show that it can even reverse age-related brain damage.
How to use: Best added to a smoothie. 1 tablespoon is the usual dose, but you may go up to 6 tablespoons daily. Good source of vegan protein. Do not expose to heat.
Originally from the Himalayan Mountains of Tibet and Mongolia, traditional Chinese medicine has been using goji for thousands of years to promote strength and longevity. Recently they have become popular due to their reputed ability for boosting brain power and memory-enhancing effects. Goji berries are also high in antioxidants which help combat dangerous inflammation, along with reducing the accumulation of toxins in the brain.
How to use: Eat alone or added to trail mix, muesli, granola or oatmeal. They can also be added to smoothies.
This antioxidant wonder-spice is a powerful anti-inflammatory and praised for its ability to safeguard the brain and protect against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as cancer and heart disease. Research also suggests that another bioactive compound in turmeric called aromatic-turmerone can increase neural stem cell growth in the brain by as much as 80 percent. Neural stem cellsplay an important role in self-repair and protecting against neurodegenerative disease.
How to use: Add turmeric to scatter or your chosen food just a little on the warm milk and drink it to boost your brain power. Plus, it’s delicious!
Now you’re in know about how to boost your brain power. One last thing – Don’t forget to drink plenty of water every day, as your brain is about 85% water. Dehydration impacts concentration as well as memory!
Here’s one of my favourite ways to get chia seeds into my daily diet!
Try Yourself: Banana & Chia Pudding Recipe
1 cup non-dairy milk (I prefer to use unsweetened almond milk)
1 small ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
2 Medjool dates
3 tbs chia seeds
a few walnuts (optional)
dash Himalayan salt
Blend the milk, banana, vanilla and dates together until well combined. Add the chia seeds and mix well, transfer to bowls or Tupperware, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Stir well before serving and add a few crushed walnuts and sliced banana. Enjoy!
For nutritional advice, contact the certified nutritionist Susan Tomassini at www.foodwise.life.