By Brittany Perrodin
If you’re looking for brain-healthy foods to incorporate into your diet, there are two main factors you need to look out for: antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidant-rich foods are well-known to fight oxidative stress on the brain, a natural process that makes the brain work worse over time. Omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks of the brain, so foods that are rich in this nutrient keeps our brains well-fed and helps us actually remember that one thing we initially went to the supermarket for.
Here are five foods that are rich in one or both of these nutrients (in no particular order):
There’s a reason that tea is the unofficial “zen” beverage – it has a direct, positive effect on the functions of the brain responsible for problem-solving, planning and impulse control. In addition, the antioxidants in tea protect our brains from oxidative stress and its caffeine content helps boost alertness and concentration while helping us feel less tired. We can reap these benefits most from drinking more black and green teas, which luckily for us, are widely available in most grocery stores.
Like most dark-colored berries, blueberries contain powerful antioxidants that support brain health. What sets these little blue miracles apart, however, are their memory-boosting properties. Just one 7 oz. blueberry smoothie in the morning can improve concentration by up to 20 percent throughout the day! Here’s one of our favorites.
3. FATTY FISH
Fatty fish are a naturally rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which places them at the top of the brain food chain. Most commonly found in salmon, trout, sardines and tuna, omega-3’s are crucial for learning and memory. Plus, you don’t even need to eat much of it to get the most benefits – just two 3.5 oz. servings of fatty fish per week is sufficient.
TIP: If fish just isn’t your thing, flaxseed is an excellent plant-based source of omega-3’s.
Nuts are great for curbing hunger and fighting fatigue which makes them fantastic little afternoon boosters. Their high vitamin E content makes them an effective antioxidant food group as well. Peanuts, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts have excellent memory-and-cognition-preserving properties, but the nut your brain loves most is the walnut! Not only are our brains flattered by the resemblance, but also, it is the only nut that contains high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid.
5. DARK CHOCOLATE
While dark chocolate has always been a personal favorite of mine, it also houses many powerful antioxidants and a healthy dose of caffeine. This gives dark chocolate the benefit of improving blood flow to the brain and keeping it alert, giving you the boost you need to ace your next exam or rock your next work presentation.
But before you decide you need to stuff your face with these foods to be as alert and productive as possible, just remember that you can have too much of a good thing. The benefits of each food are based on appropriate serving sizes and moderate consumption. Now go whip up a memory smoothie and concentration tea and give your brain what it’s craving!
Brittany Perrodin is a writer based in southern Louisiana. When she’s not busy freelance writing about home, health and wellness, she’s exploring local restaurants and events to write her kickass Yelp reviews and food blogs.