Top 10 Foods to Boost Your Brain Health
Eat Well —> Feel Well —> Perform Well.
Everything we eat has the power to impact our mood, the way we feel and perform, either positively or negatively. Which means you have the power to transform your life and feel better every single day! It’s up to you to build the right habits and repeatable processes that synch easily with your daily needs and lifestyle.
Here is my list of the best foods to positively boost your overall focus, mental clarity and brain function. I’ve included some simple changes you can make to incorporate these wholesome foods into your routines and fuel your brain with nutrient-rich meals to maintain a vibrant mind and body over time.
When incorporating any new routines into your life, it’s a good idea to set an intention to commit to that goal for a minimum of 21 days to see the best results.
Avocados are one of the world’s healthiest foods, versatile and easy to incorporate into your daily meal plans. They are loaded with vitamin K and folate, which help improve cognitive function, such as memory and concentration. Avocados are also a prime source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, vitamins B & C and are low in sugar to boot. Can’t go wrong with these guys!
Pro tip: This fruit can be used as a salad topping, mashed on top of toast with seasonings, in a smoothie, as a fat replacement in baking or as a topping for grain/rice bowls combined with legumes, herbs and veggies.
Rosemary is an herb high in carnosic acid, which helps fight free radicals and protects the brain from aging and deterioration over time. It is also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which contributes to maintaining eyesight/eye health as we age.
Pro tip: Toss some cubed sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts in coconut oil with fresh rosemary, garlic, diced onion, turmeric, black pepper and Himalayan sea salt. Bake in the oven until a bit crispy on the outside for a nutrient-dense and brain-power-packed breakfast potato. And honestly, I’ve eaten these as a side dish for many different meals at all times of day. They are always delicious!
Researchers found that a large helping of the fruit - described by some as nature's 'superfood' - boosts concentration and memory up to five hours later. Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity of all commonly consumed fruits and vegetables. Oxidative stress can accelerate the brain’s aging process, having negative effects on brain function. The antioxidants in blueberries seem to have benefits for the brain, helping to improve brain function and delaying age-related decline.
Pro tip: Always wash your blueberries extremely well, as they are also known to carry high levels of pesticides if not washed properly. I buy all of my berries fresh in large quantities when on sale, and then freeze most of them for use in smoothies/smoothie bowls, or to defrost for other uses.
#4 WHOLE GRAINS
Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy - in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. You can achieve this by choosing wholegrains with a low-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert all throughout the day. Opt for hearty grains (farro, quinoa, barley, freekeh, bulgur, buckwheat, oats) and 'brown' wholegrain cereals, sprouted grain bread, rice and whole grain or quinoa pasta.
Pro tip: Pair a nice leafy green salad with a side dish of grains and any variety of nuts, seeds, olives, veggies, etc. you prefer for a tapas-style and well-rounded meal. Use meats and cheeses in limited quantities.
Broccoli is great source of vitamin K and lignans, which are known to enhance cognitive function and benefit cognitive skills such as thinking, reasoning, imagining and remembering. Because broccoli can slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter “acetylcholine”, which we need for the central nervous system to perform properly and to keep our brains and our memories sharp. Low levels of acetylcholine are common in those with Alzheimer's.
Pro tip: If you’re a pasta lover, try filling half your plate with pasta and the other half with cooked broccoli, then just add the sauce, etc.! This is a great way to pack-in some extra nutrients and still enjoy what you love. Spaghetti squash is another excellent and nutritional pasta substitute to keep in your rotation.
Turmeric is an unbelievably powerful natural anti-inflammatory—something we should all be considering in how we care for our health. It is now believed that chronic, low-level inflammation has a role in almost every Western disease including cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and various degenerative conditions, etc. Turmeric is so powerful and effective, it even matches the strength of some anti-inflammatory drugs. This spice is also bursting with antioxidants, which contributes to building a strong immune and defense system in the body overall.
Pro tip: Keep this powerful spice readily available on your kitchen counter, so you can easily add a dusting of it to any dish! Combine with black pepper to increase absorption and effectiveness of the turmeric.
Finally a reason to eat those egg yolks: CHOLINE. This B-complex nutrient is important for normal brain development, nerve function, muscle movement, supporting energy levels and maintaining a healthy metabolism – and an estimated 90% of us don’t get enough of it. Eggs are also high in tryptophan, which is known for its role in serotonin development and naturally boosting your mood. So yes, I’m saying eating more eggs can basically make you happier!
Pro tip: One of my favorite breakfasts to throw together on the weekend is a ‘casual’ egg frittata of sorts. Mix some cubes of gluten-free/sprouted grain/whole grain bread into a bowl with lots of spices (fresh if you have them). Grease a glass baking dish with some coconut oil, then make a layer of bread cubes in the dish. In your bowl, mix eggs (based on # of people/size of your dish) with a bit of water and add diced veggies (I use a variety of onion, garlic, peppers, asparagus, squash, etc.), optional cheese and breakfast proteins of your choice. Bake until cooked all the way through.
All nuts are excellent sources of protein, vitamins and minerals. Walnuts also contain serotonin and are a rare source of pedunculagin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce brain inflammation. One study on adults of all ages found that eating walnuts improved reaction time, learning, and memory recall. Almonds and cashews also have a high impact on brain health.
Pro tip: Eat a handful of nuts as an on-the-go as a snack, or toss on top of some leafy greens for added crunch in your salad. One of my favorite salad combinations is spinach plus romaine, topped with walnuts or another nut, avocado, chickpeas, raisins or other dried berry, sunflower seeds and a vinaigrette dressing. Add any protein of your choice and feta or goat cheese if you’re feeling fancy.
#9 PUMPKIN SEEDS
Richer in zinc than many other seeds, pumpkin seeds supply this valuable mineral which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. These delicious little seeds are also full of stress-busting magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, the precursor to the good mood chemical serotonin. Not to mention, perfect for satisfying any salt cravings.
Pro tip: Toss a small handful of lightly toasted pumpkin seeds on top of a salad, yogurt, oatmeal or even soups for an added crunch!
#10 COCONUT OIL
Coconut oil is one of the most versatile and nutrient-rich foods. It can play a huge role in reducing inflammation in the brain and body, improving gut health and strengthening the immune system. Researchers have found that the MCFAs in coconut oil improved the memory and overall brain function. The digestion of these MCFAs by the liver also creates ketones that are readily accessible by the brain for energy.
Pro tip: Try using coconut oil as a replacement for anything you would normally use olive oil, butter or any other type of oil or cooking spray. You can also spread it on toast, add it to your smoothies for extra nutrients and healthy fats, add it to soups or teas and more.