‘You are what you eat!’ is a saying that you have probably heard a million times. While you will not literally become what you eat, the food you put into your body dictates everything from how you feel, how you look, your future and so much more. Every time you eat a meal, have a snack or enjoy a drink, you are either feeding your body something that is working for it or against it.
However, it is not black and white and everyone’s body works entirely different. To make things even more complex, there are endless amounts of information on the internet regarding diet and it all seems to be completely contradictory. An increasingly popular perspective on diet is ‘Well, there is no way to know what is healthy and what is unhealthy, therefore, I am just going to eat whatever I want!’. I really cannot blame those who carry this perspective around with them because it can be so overwhelming to know what to put into your body.
In the age of the internet and technology, it feels impossible to work out what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be eating. I suppose what you ‘should’ be eating depends on your body and lifestyle. An approach I find very effective is ‘intentional eating’ which is basically eating mindfully and choosing to consume foods that A) make me feel good and B) reflect my values.
Something I have noticed is that a lot of approaches to eating have to do with a specific result that is often purely aesthetic. In this article, we are going to take a different route and look at foods that increase brain health. Our brains are our biggest asset and making a conscious effort of ensuring we include certain foods into our diet can help boost the functions in our brain.
What is brain health?
Essentially, brain health can be defined as the preservation of brain integrity and mental/cognitive function. Maintaining good brain health means that (yup, you guessed it) your brain is healthy! There are many methods we can partake in to help boost our brains. When reading up about brain health, one of the first and most obvious things that most articles start with is brain food. Everyone knows how important it is to eat healthy food but have you ever considered how the food you eat every day affects your brain health?
Let’s take a closer look at some specific brain foods!
Foods that boost brain health
Many nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamin E and more! All of these are beneficial for the brain. To give an example of a nut, we can look at Walnuts which host high contents of omega-3 fatty acids that help improve brain health.
To give an example of a seed, we can look at pumpkin seeds which contain antioxidants, zinc, copper, iron and magnesium! All of these minerals are known to improve the brains performance. Zinc and copper both help for nerve signalling, magnesium improves memory and iron is great for preventing brain fog. Keeping some nuts and seeds at your desk/workspace is a great way to get a brain boost throughout your day.
Getting in your daily greens seems to be a challenge for most of us despite all of the benefits that they have to offer us! Leafy greens such as collards, broccoli, spinach and kale contain various nutrients such as vitamin K, lutein, folate, beta carotene and more!
These can help with the formation of fat inside brain cells, improving memory and brain function. Making sure you eat leafy greens each day will slow down the rate of cognitive decline.
Having an egg when you feel like your brain is lagging is the perfect way to get that extra boost. Eggs are rich in B vitamins which help to slow cognitive decline and increase memory. Deficiencies in B vitamins have been largely associated with depression and dementia.
Additionally, eggs contain a nutrient called choline that the body can use to create the neurotransmitters responsible for mood and memory. If you can’t beat your brain fog and need some extra energy or are feeling a bit irritated, try eating an egg or two and see if it helps!
Specific fish such as trout, salmon and sardines contain large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating foods that contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids will increase the production of brain and nerve cells, making it extremely essential for the brain to develop and thrive.
Not to mention that 60% of your brain is composed of fat-containing omega 3s. Consuming fish is linked to improving memory, learning abilities, and reduced rates of cognitive decline.
Let’s talk inflammation! If you are familiar with turmeric, then you are likely aware of its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only does it offer us these properties, but it can also pass through the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain directly. Turmeric has been associated with improved memory, decreased depression and the growth of new brain cells.
Using turmeric with the motive of increasing brain health has been used in various traditional medicine practices around the world. Whether you are cooking dinner or looking for a snack, adding turmeric to drinks and dishes is always a plus in regards to brain health!
Lions Mane Mushroom
This medicinal mushroom has been getting a lot of hype lately, and for good reason, too! It has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine (like many medicinal mushrooms) and is now becoming a worldwide brain-boosting method. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where the actual mushroom is available to you, introducing some new dishes into your life that include lions mane mushroom is a great way to treat your brain with love!
Not only does it offer a unique and versatile taste, but it is also equally known for its brain-boosting properties. Individuals around the globe have successfully treated depression and anxiety through the use of this mushroom.
Additionally, other animal studies have found that lions mane mushroom can also help regenerate brain cells and improve the functioning of the hippocampus which is a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses. If you cannot find the mushroom in your area to use in your kitchen, there are plenty of lions mane extracts available online. The same goes for turmeric, which I mentioned above!
Finding the right foods that feed your brain and incorporating them into your day to day diet is an exceptional form of self-care. Increasing brain health will make your life easier and increase longevity. To ensure you live the longest and happiest life possible, it is important to show your brain the care it desires and deserves.
Experiment with different foods and see what makes you feel awake and alert. Your brain is very sensitive and needs constant nourishment. Sometimes, making small dietary changes can help us enjoy life to the fullest. Feed your brain what it needs to thrive so the rest of you can start thriving, too!