Best Brain Food: Memory, Concentration and Health

As the brain is a special organ controlling all the functioning of the entire body, it has specific nutrient requirements. These nutrients are present only in a small amount in the everyday food we eat.

However, certain foods are rich in the nutrients required by the brain. Nutritionists emphasize that the food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are best for brain health. These foods can certainly boost the memory and concentration level of the brain.

Studies have shown that the people who take these foods regularly have a much healthier brain as compared to other people. Below is given a scientific account of the food items that are linked to better brainpower.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Leafy vegetables are not only good for your gut health and motility, but they also have a positive impact on brain health. Several research studies suggest that consumption of green vegetables can help slow down the cognitive decline. 

These vegetables contain a number of nutrients that are beneficial for brain health. These include

  • Vitamin K: an antioxidant that can reduce the damage to brain cells.
  • Lutein: acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, it can improve cognitive function
  • Folate: it can reduce the levels of homocysteine and thus can improve cognitive functions
  • Beta-carotene: it also acts as antioxidants and prevents cognitive decline, increasing the age of brain cells.

Vegetables recommended by nutritionists for better brain health include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Broccoli

Fatty Fish

Studies have confirmed that fatty fish is much beneficial for the brain’s health. Experts recommend one to two fatty fish meals per week. Fatty fish meals are recommended for the better development of the brain in the children.

Fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that play an important role in the development of the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are required for forming myelin sheaths around the axons.

These new axons are continuously formed in the developing brain of the children. They also help build the cell membranes of the new neuronal cells.

In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are linked to decrease the levels of beta-amyloid in the blood. Beta-amyloids are the misfolded proteins that are formed in the brain and are involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Omega-3 containing fish include:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Herring
  • Sardines

If you are not a fan of fish, you may ask your doctor to recommend you omega-3 supplements such as cord liver oil.

Coffee

Many people drink coffee when they are stressed or have to do mental work without a break. Some start their day with a cup of coffee. You must be glad to know that the cup of coffee you take in the morning or during your office break is beneficial for your brain.

Studies have proved two important components of coffee that have a positive impact on mental health. These are caffeine and antioxidants.

Caffeine acts as a CNS stimulant. It increases the neuronal activity in the brain and thus is involved in increasing alertness. Caffeine also alleviates the mood of a person by stimulating the releases of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with ‘good mood’.

The antioxidants present in coffee are linked to decreasing damage to the brain cells. Thus, long term consumption of coffee is linked to decreased risks of stroke,  Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. It also slows down the process of cognitive decline.

Long term consumption of coffee can interfere with the sleep process and can cause insomnia. It is the known harmful effect of coffee on the brain.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains cocoa which is a brain-boosting compound. Cocoa contains flavonoids. Flavonoids are a group of compounds with antioxidant properties. They can accumulate in the areas of the brain associated with memory.

Thus, they can prevent damage to these areas, enhancing memory and preventing cognitive decline.

They are also associated with improving cognitive function and learning. Dark chocolate also improves the plasticity of the brain which is essential for the learning process.

Like coffee, dark chocolate also contains caffeine that can stimulate neuronal activity in the brain.

Other antioxidants present in dark chocolate can slow down the onset of cognitive decline

Berries

Berries provide numerous health benefits to the human body, some of which are specific for the brain.

Berries contain flavonoid compounds, that act as antioxidants and improve memory and learning.

Berries also contain anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds improve the connections between brain cells and improve nerve impulse transmission from one cell to the other.

Research studies have proved that these compounds can also improve memory and delay short-term memory loss.

Berries that have beneficial effects on brain health include:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mulberries

Experts recommend taking one to two servings of strawberries or blueberries per week to delay the memory decline.

Walnuts

Eating nuts not only improves heart health but also have a positive impact on the overall health of the brain. Walnuts are specifically associated with better brain functioning.

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. As stated earlier, these fatty acids are essential for the development of the brain. They can also improve the condition of blood vessels.

Alpha-linolenic acid, a specific omega-3 fatty acid present in walnuts is associated with lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol present in the blood. It protects the arteries in both heart and brain and decreases the chances of stroke.

Walnuts consumption is also associated with better cognitive function of the brain and improving memory.

Avocados

Avocados are a good source of healthy fats. They are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids improve the overall health of the body.

They also lower blood cholesterol and decrease the chances of cerebral artery blockade and resultant stroke.

These monounsaturated fatty acids are also associated with improved cognitive function and a delay in cognitive decline.

Monounsaturated fatty acids are also present in other food such as:

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybean, sunflower and Canola oil
  • Fish

Oranges

Oranges are the source of vitamin C. Vitamin C also has antioxidant properties.

In addition to improving bone and soft tissue health, vitamin C also has beneficial effects for the brain.

The antioxidant property of vitamin C is crucial for preventing mental decline.

It clears the harmful free-radicals that may damage the brain and cause severe mental damage, affecting the process of learning and memory.

Vitamin C can also prevent age-related damage to the brain. It can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. It supports brain health as a person ages.

Other sources of Vitamin C include:

  • Guava
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

Eggs

Eggs you enjoy at the breakfast table keep your brain healthy. They are the primary source of several nutrients associated with brain health.

These nutrients include vitamin B6, vitamin B12, choline and folate.

Vitamin B6 helps the body make serotonin and norepinephrine, the two neurotransmitters associated with good mood.

Vitamin b12 helps regulate sugar levels in the brain.

Folate plays an important role in keeping homocysteine levels at a lower level. An increase in homocysteine can cause irreversible damage to the brain and vision.

The combined formulation of vitamin B6, B12 and folate is proven to delay age-related memory loss and cognitive decline. Thus, it can prevent the onset of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson disease.

Choline present in eggs is an important nutrient. It acts as a precursor for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating the nervous outflow from the brain.

Green Tea

Green tea not only helps you reduce belly weight, but it can also boost your brain.

Like coffee, green tea also contains caffeine. Caffeine can improve alertness, mood, and focus of a person. It can also improve memory. 

Green tea also contains other components that are beneficial for the brain. It contains L-theanine.

L-theanine is an essential amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier. It enters the brain cells and increases the activity of GABA neurotransmitter. GABA decreases excess neuronal activity in the brain. It helps to decrease anxiety and depression and relax without making you feel tired.

Green tea also contains polyphenols and other antioxidants. These compounds can prevent stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson disease.

Green tea can also improve memory and learning of a person.

Summary

The nutrient requirements of the brain are different as compared to other organs of the body. Some specific compounds are required for the synthesis of neurotransmitters, myelin sheath and cell membrane of neurons.

Other nutrients prevent damage to the brain cells and delay the onset of some harmful diseases. A summary of the important nutrients and their sources is given below:

Antioxidants: they are present in green vegetables, coffee, green tea, oranges, nuts, and dark chocolate

Omega-3 and monounsaturated fatty acids: present in fatty  fish, avocados, walnuts, and other nuts

Caffeine: It is present in coffee and green tea

Flavonoid compounds: They are present in dark chocolate and berries

Vitamin B6 and B12: they are present in eggs

Folate: it is present in vegetables and eggs

Vitamin C: present in oranges, guava, tomatoes, etc

Neurotransmitter precursors: Present in eggs and green tea

Consumption of these compounds can boost memory, improve alertness and focus, and can improve the cognitive functions of the brain