Your brain, which has over 100,000 miles of blood vessels, uses 20% of the total oxygen and burns 20% of the total calories in your body per day. That’s a pretty healthy appetite for a body part that represents about 2% of the average adult’s body weight.
In fact, your brain is the gas-guzzling SUV of body organs, which is why you should fuel it with the best foods for your brain. Here are 11 foods that will help fuel your brain to maximum efficiency and optimal capacity.
1. Coconut Oil
One of the best foods for the brain is coconut oil, and there are so many rewards to trading in the other cooking oils in your kitchen for coconut oil.
First of all, coconut oil’s heat tolerance is much higher than other oils, like olive oil. In other words, it won’t turn to a harmful trans fat at higher heats and keeps more of the beneficial nutrition.
Coconut oil is also rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs). MCTs are a great energy source for the brain.
Eating coconut oil will aid in improving brain function and can help boost memory.
You should buy organic coconut oil, the cold-pressed kind. Around 20 milliliters daily added to smoothies or mixed into yogurt should be enough to get the brain benefits.
I know you’re probably tired of hearing about all the health benefits of blueberries, and how they are high in antioxidants, which certainly helps promote brain health.
But did you know they also have flavonoids, chemicals which are believed to improve memory?
Flavonoids have been demonstrated to enhance spatial memory in both animals and humans. Fruit-sourced flavonoids are thought to be particularly potent, so blueberries are a perfect choice for a snack food, stirred into yogurt or oatmeal, or a basis for brain blast smoothie.
Another healthy food for the brain is broccoli. Among the most well-liked vegetables in the US, it keeps most of its benefits when it’s raw or lightly steamed.
Broccoli contains heaps of lignans, a phytochemical which have been shown to benefit brain functions including reasoning, thinking, remembering, imagining and linguistic learning.
Broccoli additionally contains sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is a powerful phytocompound which activates and increases the antioxidant glutathione.
Glutathione shields the brain from free radical damage and preserves the synaptic membranes structure, key to learning and memory.
Not only that, but broccoli is high in glucosinolates, which assist in promoting acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter vital to the central nervous system.
4. Green Tea
The main ingredients of green tea, which include the green tea catechins EC, EGC and EGCG as well as quercetin, and myricetin, have been well studied in cancer research. The Chinese believed all along that drinking green tea is good for your memory.
Researchers have found green tea has high levels of the chemical EGCG, epigallocatechin-3 gallate, which a powerful antioxidant.
EGCG increases the brain’s effective connectivity and may perk up cognitive function and memory, according to research from the University of Basel.
5. Black Pepper
One of the most surprising foods that help your brain is the most widely used spice in the world- black pepper.
Black pepper and the black pepper plant have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine to treat gastrointestinal distress, pain, inflammation and other disorders. Recently, science has learned that black pepper can also benefit you brain significantly.
Piperine, one of the actives chemicals in black pepper, helps slow down degeneration of dopamine and serotonin, two of the neurotransmitters vital for mood regulation and brain health.
Piperine also seems to help regulate the brain’s calcium flow, giving the compound anti-seizure effects.
6. Chia Seed
Chia is an ancient crop cultivated for centuries by the Aztec tribes in Mexico. It is not only high in dietary fiber, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids; chia seed also has the highest α-linoleic acid (an Omega-3 fatty acid) content of any known vegetable source.
The omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are necessary for memory function and brain health.
Although chia seed does not contain DHA, the omega 3 fat can convert to DHA when combined with magnesium and Vitamin C. Just three tablespoons of chia seed can produce 1200mg of DHA and EPA.
Ounce for ounce, chia’s cognitive nutrition power is on a par with wild salmon and exceeds that of farmed salmon.
7. Raw Cacao Nibs
With more antioxidants than green tea, blueberries, or red wine, cacao beans are an outstanding source of phytonutrients. The flavonoids it contains switch off harmful inflammation transcription factors like NF-kB and switch on protective pathways like nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-like 2.
This helps increase brain function, improve verbal fluency increase, information processing speed and improve memory. Since they enhance the brain’s opioid-receptors, cacao beans have also been linked with mood improvements.
Buy the raw cacao nibs, not chocolate. Many of the brain health benefits are lost when you eat commercially produced chocolate, even with 70% or more dark chocolate .
Pomegranate seeds or juice have powerful antioxidant benefits that protect the brain from free radicals damage.
According to neurologist David Perlmutter, no part of the body is more sensitive to the damage from free radicals as the brain. Pomegranate juice usually has added sugar to offset its natural tartness, so you drink it in moderation if you are sensitive to sweeteners.
A recent study investigating pomegranate juice found significant improvement in participants’ verbal memory and increased brain activity during memory and verbal testing. The results suggest pomegranate juice helped increase blood flow to task-related brain regions.
Beet root juice can increase blood flow to the brain in older adults, improving mental performance, a study from Wake Forest University found.
Beets contain high concentrations of nitrates as do celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables like spinach and some lettuce. When you eat high-nitrate foods, good bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrite.
Research has found that nitrites can help open up the blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen specifically to places that are lacking oxygen.
Beet juice itself has a bitter taste that many people do not tolerate well, but beets are delicious pickled or roasted and sliced. Add them to salads, toss them with pasta and pesto, or cook them in a soup with tomatoes.
This spice, known for its use in curry, contains an anti-inflammatory antioxidant called curcumin and is revered in India as “holy powder.”
Research has shown that curcumin may help inhibit the accumulation of destructive beta amyloids in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients, as well as break up existing plaques. Curcumin has even been shown to boost memory and stimulate the production of new brain cells.
Celery is one of the richest sources of the plant compound luteolin, which a 2010 study linked with lower rates of age-related memory loss.
Luteolin seems to soothe inflammation in the brain. Experts now suspect inflammation to be a primary cause of neurodegeneration.
Through inhibiting action of inflammatory cytokines, luteolin may prevent a cycle of degenerative changes in the brain. Luteolin is found in many other plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.
“We believe dietary luteolin accesses the brain and inhibits or reduces activation of microglial cells and the inflammatory cytokines they produce. This anti-inflammatory effect is likely the mechanism which allows their working memory to be restored to what it was at an earlier age. These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health,” study leader Rodney Johnson of University of Illinois said.
For More Information:
Marcus E. Raichle, Debra A. Gusnard
Appraising the brain’s energy budget
PNAS vol. 99 no. 16, 10237–10239, doi: 10.1073/pnas.172399499
Jenna Cramer, Elizabeth Jeffery.
Sulforaphane Absorption and Excretion Following Ingestion of a Semi-Purified Broccoli Powder Rich in Glucoraphanin and Broccoli Sprouts in Healthy Men.
Nutrition and Cancer, 2011; 1 DOI:10.1080/01635581.2011.523495
Stephen J. Crozier, Amy G. Preston, W. Jeffrey Hurst, Mark J. Payne, Julie Mann, Larry Hainly and Debra L. Miller.
Cacao seeds are a ‘Super Fruit’: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products.
Chemistry Central Journal, 2011; 5: 5 DOI: 10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
Photo credits, top to bottom: THOR,