The relationship between the brain and the body is an astounding one. The foods we use to fuel our bodies also fuel our brain. The brain in turn, ensures the body is functioning as well as possible.
It is a circle. How well you eat determines how well your body functions. The better your body functions, the better you feel. The better you feel, the more you are able to enjoy life. What an amazing opportunity – we can improve our quality of life simply through the foods we choose to eat!
So what determines if a food is brain-healthy or not? A great place to start is to look for foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and good fats. If you need a few suggestions- read on!
Truly one of the most super of the super-foods, avocados offer countless health benefits. Their good fats fuel both brain and body, and their high fiber content keeps blood sugar more stable over time. The folate and vitamin K in avocados improve blood flow, preventing blood clots in the brain. This protects against stroke, as well as, improves memory and cognitive performance. It doesn’t get better than this recipe for the “Best Guacamole Ever!”
From cooking to hair care, the many uses of coconut oil have been widely advertised. When it comes to brain benefits, coconut oil is hard to beat. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help protect against degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. This is especially important for diabetics, as new research is revealing an association between uncontrolled blood sugar and Alzheimer’s dementia. There are countless ways to use coconut oil; try this recipe for carrot-coconut soup with crispy leeks.
Do you have scarring childhood memories of your mom or grandma forcing you to eat beets (not to mention liver and onions!) Well don’t be afraid, there is hope; beets can be delicious and their brain-healthy benefits make them worth another try. They are high in antioxidants and help to reduce inflammation. Beets also improve blood flow and can help increase energy levels. Try them roasted with a little raw honey and balsamic vinegar, or in this Food Network salad with goat cheese and arugula.
Another treasured childhood favorite. Just admit, it’s starting to sound like your mom had the right idea with that whole “Just eat it, it’s good for you” thing. Broccoli’s vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate help to improve memory, and its high fiber content stabilizes blood sugar and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Forget limp broccoli blanketed with “cheese”; broccoli is at its best when added to recipes like Mama Lisa’s Coleslaw. Just shred raw broccoli stalks and mix in, or buy a bag of “broccoli slaw” from your local grocery and follow the recipe from there.
Sweet, juicy blueberries are a summertime favorite. They are great for brain health due to their off-the-charts antioxidant content. Their high levels of Vitamin C and fiber also make blueberries natural stress relievers for the brain. Enjoy blueberries in a conventional fruit smoothie, or in a cool, refreshing poolside summer cocktail.
Who would have thought that a vegetable so low in calories could pack such a nutritious punch. The high levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides in celery alleviate inflammation symptoms like joint pain and irritable bowel syndrome. Some of the most important inflammation reduction happens in the brain. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, even water – all of these are available to you simply by eating a stalk of celery. Try a childhood favorite “Ants on a Log” – a stalk of celery smeared with peanut butter and with a few raisins stuck inside.
Leafy, Green Vegetables
Research has shown that eating veggies like romaine lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard on a regular basis can help reduce risk for dementia. In one study, adults experienced slower mental deterioration after eating one to two servings of leafy, green vegetables every day versus those who ate no vegetables. The study even included other variables like age, family history, and other risk factors. The major benefits are due to vitamins A and K that fight inflammation. If a bowl of raw kale doesn’t sound like your thing, check out these 10 kale recipes that actually taste good.
Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is a true brain food! These fatty acids keep your brain running in tip-top shape, improving cognition, memory, and focus. These same fatty acids also help prevent the development of cancer cells and have even been shown to kill them. Be cautious of the type of salmon you purchase. The above benefits can be found in Alaskan wild-caught salmon. Benefits decrease and potential health dangers increase when you choose farm-raised varieties. While salmon is delicious with a simple slice of lemon, try this irresistible Sesame-Soy Salmon.
The high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in walnuts improve focus, alertness, and provide a boost of energy. The vitamin E found in walnuts has also been shown to decrease risk for Alzheimer’s dementia. Enjoy a handful of walnuts as an afternoon snack, or add walnut butter to your favorite cookie recipe.
Chocolate lovers rejoice! The antioxidant component of cocoa has been found to battle free radicals, reducing cell and tissue damage. Research has suggested that cocoa’s flavanols (phytonutrients with antioxidant properties) may contribute to maintaining a healthy brain and can positively affect learning and memory functions. Findings have also found that cocoa-based products enhance the flow of blood to the brain. Not to mention, cocoa possesses mood-enhancing properties and is rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium.
The human body was made with two eyes, two ears, but only one brain. We must be aware of the negative effects that today’s busy lifestyle can have on our brains, and work to prevent them. So do your brain a favor and get cooking!