Maintaining optimal brain health and memory is crucial for productivity and overall well-being. The food you consume plays an important role in nourishing both your body and brain. But while there are countless food options with potential benefits, certain foods known as “brain foods” come packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support cognitive function and memory. This article explores the best foods to boost your brain and memory, covers the relationship between nutrition and cognitive function, and sheds light on the essential vitamins and minerals you need for brain health.
What is brain food?
When you think about nourishing the body, you often overlook the brain and focus on muscles, organs, and bones. However, it is important to also consider the impact that foods can have on brain health, memory, and cognitive function. This is where the concept of “brain food” comes in.
As the term implies, “brain foods” refer to specific types of foods that contain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed to support brain health, memory, and cognitive function. These foods also come enriched with antioxidants and other compounds that nourish the brain and dramatically reduce the risk of developing neurological problems later in life. By incorporating them into your diet, you essentially provide the brain with all it needs to thrive and work efficiently.
While the foods that are considered “brain foods” may vary, some good examples include vegetables like leafy greens, which provide essential vitamins and minerals, and fruits like berries, which contain lots of antioxidants.
Can nutrition improve brain function and memory?
Yes, it can. Research shows a strong correlation between brain function & memory and nutrition. For starters, the brain requires a constant supply of energy to work properly; this energy comes from the glucose-containing food that you eat. This is why you notice an improvement in cognitive functions like attention, memory, and problem-solving after consuming diets that contain complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables. Additionally, the brain relies on a constant supply of amino acids to synthesize neurotransmitters (serotonin, catecholamines, etc.,) that are known to support learning and memory.
What vitamins and minerals are essential for brain health?
So many vitamins and minerals are essential for brain health and play an important role in supporting cognition, but here are some of the key ones.
- B vitamins. For starters, B vitamins, including vitamins B6, B9, and B12, play a huge role in promoting brain health. They help in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters that influence mood and cognitive function. Vegetables, whole grains, eggs, and legumes are some good sources of B vitamins.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and low levels of it in the brain have been associated with an increased risk of learning and thought disorders. On the flip side, sufficient levels of vitamin C help protect the brain against oxidative stress and support the production of neurotransmitters necessary for good cognitive health. Some excellent sources of vitamin C include berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, tomatoes and tomato juice, and broccoli.
- Calcium. Calcium signals the flow of nutrient-rich blood to and around the brain, which boosts cognitive function and overall brain health. Because the brain doesn’t have structures put in place to store energy like other parts of the body, it relies on a steady supply of blood to function optimally.
- Magnesium. Magnesium partakes and influences several hundred biochemical reactions in the body, including those related to cognition and proper brain functioning. It also plays a vital role in regulating the levels of neurotransmitters that support synaptic plasticity and memory enhancement. Nuts, dark chocolate, seeds, and leafy green vegetables are some great sources of magnesium.
- Zinc and copper. Zinc and copper are essential minerals that contribute to the optimal functioning and protection of the brain. While zinc plays a role in memory formation and partakes in synaptic function, copper aids in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that are the forerunners in cognitive function.
It is worth noting that while these vitamins and nutrients can be obtained through consuming balanced diets, some people may sometimes require supplementation to reach the nutritional benchmark. Modafinil is one such supplement; it is a “smart drug” with strong cognitive-enhancing effects. It works by regulating the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters that play an important role in enhancing mood, alertness, focus, and memory.
Modafinil has gained popularity over the years because of its high level of effectiveness in enhancing cognitive performance and productivity with minimal side effects. You can easily buy modafinil online, but remember that it is important to consult your doctor or healthcare professional before using any pills.
Top healthy foods for the brain and memory improvement
Now that you’ve established the role that nutrition plays in improving brain health and memory, let’s take a look at some of the top foods required for tapping the necessary nutrients.
- Fatty fish. Fatty fish such as trout, sardines, and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that promote blood flow to the brain and increase memory, learning, and cognitive function. It also plays an important role in building brain cell membranes and improving overall cognitive health.
- Whole grains. Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and brown rice provide glucose that the brain depends on as an energy source to function optimally. The glucose content also helps sustain concentration and focus for an extended period. But that’s not all; whole grains also contain fiber and B vitamins that support overall cognitive health.
- Broccoli. This vegetable comes packed with antioxidants, which, as mentioned earlier, support cognitive function and memory. The cruciferous veggie also contains vitamin K that is known to be beneficial to memory and overall cognitive function
- Berries. Berries such as blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries come packed with antioxidants that have a protective effect on the brain. They prevent oxidative stress, which helps increase learning ability and enhance cognitive function. Berries have also been shown to decelerate age-related cognitive decline and boost memory.
- Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, copper, and magnesium, which, as revealed earlier, are essential for cognitive health. Like berries, pumpkin seeds also contain antioxidants that prevent oxidative stress, protect the brain from damage by free radicals, and ultimately enhance cognitive function.
- Nuts. Nuts such as cashews, almonds, and walnuts are a great source of antioxidants. Just like pumpkin seeds and berries, they equally improve memory, boost cognitive function, and improve overall brain health.
- Green tea. Caffeine and L-theanine are known as some of nature’s best cognitive enhancers. You’ll find a combination of both of them in most cognitive-enhancing supplements and vitamins, and for good reason: they increase energy levels and focus and reduce stress. Green tea contains a fine combination of both components, and it can help improve brain function and memory without causing the jitters associated with excessive consumption of caffeine. Sip a cup of green tea to stay alert and focused during study sessions.
Nutrition plays a vital role in improving memory and overall cognitive health. If you incorporate healthy foods, such as fatty fish, whole grains, and nuts, among others listed in this blog post, into your diet, you’re likely to start noticing remarkable improvements over a short period. While you may prioritise a well-rounded diet that includes these foods, supplementing them with regular physical exercise, a healthy lifestyle, adequate sleep, and “smart drugs” like modafinil will be helpful. It is always important to consult your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any cognitive enhancers or making any major changes to your diet. They can review your plans and help you determine if they’re good for you.
Jordan Wayne, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.