As almost graduates who just spent a year learning everything from strategic business planning to best accounting practices, our brains are one of our most important assets. So it’s crucial that we protect and nourish them. There are a handful of specific foods that can have a positive impact on brain health. These foods help protect against inflammatory cytokines that are released in response to stress. Cytokines are chemicals produced by the body that cause inflammation, which can be beneficial for things like cuts or bruises that need to heal. However, constant stress can cause chronic inflammation that has been linked to several autoimmune diseases.
Overtime, many health issues can be triggered or exacerbated by chronic stress. Eating foods from this list can help protect against inflammation and degeneration while increasing the chances of maintaining a healthy brain.
The most commonly referred to “brain food,” these tiny fruits are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods, containing vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber. They are also a significant source of gallic acid, which protects the brain from oxidative stress and may even reduce the effects of age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Eating one cup of fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried blueberries per day can provide these benefits.
Deep-water fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a fat the body cannot make from scratch but must get from food. It contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce brain fog. To consume an adequate amount of this essential fat, it’s recommended to eat a 4-ounce serving of wild salmon, sardines, herring, or other deep-water fish 2-3 times a week. Wild-caught salmon also provides several vitamins and minerals that are typically consumed in low amounts.
These root vegetables are a great source of antioxidants and pack a multi-tasking punch. Beets reduce inflammation and help rid the blood of toxins. As well, their high nitric acid content boosts blood flow to the brain, which helps mental performance. Although not a cause for concern, beets can change the color of urine and stool. Including them several times per week is sufficient to achieve their benefits.
Nuts and seeds
One ounce of raw or roasted nuts and seeds per day is all that’s needed to tap into their antioxidant effects. They’re a good source of the fat-soluble vitamin E, which protects against damage of free radicals and therefore naturally slows the aging of cells and leads to less cognitive decline. Walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and unhydrogenated nut butters are all good sources.
Avocados have the highest fat content of all fruit, but not to worry it’s monounsaturated or the “good” fat. With 3.4 grams of fiber and high oleic acid content, avocados help keep blood sugar levels steady, maintain healthy blood flow, and lower blood pressure, all which decrease the risk of cognitive decline. Because they add higher amounts of fat, ¼ – ½ an avocado is adequate per day.
Grains considered whole are ones where the fiber-dense bran and nutrient-rich germ remain intact. This is where the antioxidant power comes from. Eating whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain breads, and brown rice, reduces the risk of heart disease and maintains healthy blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body. Servings include ½ cup whole-grain cereal or brown rice and 1 slice of bread 2-3 times a day.
Green, leafy vegetables
Getting green, leafy vegetables on your plate is always recommended as they’re one of the best things you can eat! Not only are they loaded with vitamins A and D, which help fight inflammation, they also help slow the process of mental deterioration.
Freshly brewed tea
This soothing drink contains a modest amount of caffeine that can boost brain power by enhancing memory, focus, and mood. Because it’s made from dried plants and herbs, it also contains antioxidants, especially catechins, which promote healthy blood flow. To achieve these benefits, drink 2-3 cups a day.
Last, and possibly the best (definitely my favorite), dark chocolate holds powerful antioxidant properties due to flavonols, a polyphenolic compound found in plants. It’s also a natural stimulant and helps lower blood pressure and improve blood flow. About ½ ounce of chocolate per day is all that’s needed, but remember: the darker the chocolate the more the benefits.
This banana bread contains blueberries, walnuts, and whole grains to pack a powerful brain-boosting punch. It was obviously easy to make, just took way too long to bake (less than an hour so not really long I was just being impatient). Sour cream seems weird but actually makes this bread super moist (sorry). Let me know what you think!!
Banana Bread for the Brain
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 rotten bananas, room temperature
- ½ cup sour cream
- 2 cups oat flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup blueberries
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two bread pans with tin foil or coat insides with butter.
- Combine butter and both sugars. Mix until sugar is coated with butter. Add eggs, vanilla extract, bananas, and sour cream to mixture.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the oat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon.
- Slowly add the dry flour mixture to the banana mixture.
- Fold in the walnuts and blueberries.
- Pour the banana bread mixture into the two bread pans. Bake in oven for about an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.