Boost your brain with nutrition

As the control centre of our entire body, it’s important that we do everything we can to make sure our brain is functioning optimally. We can sometimes get disconnected from the idea that what we eat is the fuel source for the brain, forgetting that what we put into our body can have a direct impact on how we feel, both physically and mentally. This is why proper nutrition is so vital to optimal brain health, as a lack of certain nutrients can actually lead to everything from mental fatigue to mental health issues. Below I break down some of the key foods that support optimal brain health.

Top foods for brain health

Avocados
This fruit is one of the healthiest ones you can consume and one of my all-time favourites. While avocados often get a bad rep because of their high fat content, it’s important to note that these green powerhouses are packed with monounsaturated fats (aka the good kind), which can help improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Remember, the brain is mostly made up of fatty acids, so we need to consume a certain amount of healthy fats a day for our brain to function properly.

Containing both vitamin K and folate, avocados can also help improve cognitive function, especially memory and concentration.

They’re also rich in vitamin B and vitamin C, which aren’t stored in your body and need to be replenished daily (so its totally okay to eat an avocado a day.) Plus, they have the highest protein and lowest sugar content of any fruit. The creamy texture makes them a great addition to smoothies and easy to make dips and dressings with.

Beets
I know beets can be a huge mess in the kitchen, but don’t let their blood-red colour deter you from eating these delicious root vegetables, as they are some of the most nutritious plants you can eat!

First off, beets can help reduce inflammation, are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants and help rid your blood of toxins. And the natural nitrates in beets actually boost blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance. (Plus, during tough workouts, beets actually help boost energy and performance levels.) If eating beets isn’t your thing, try them in juice form, or add them to a smoothie.

Blueberries
Proving that great things do come in small packages, blueberries are a fruit I try to eat daily. That’s because they’ve got so many great health benefits (­and taste like an all-natural candy). Studies have shown that blueberries can help improve cognitive function and memory, and are also good at protecting the brain from degeneration and stress. Blueberries are one of the highest antioxidant-rich foods known to man, and are also high in vitamin C and vitamin K and are a great source of fibre.

Be careful with these little guys though because they are a part of the “dirty dozen” however and should always be bought organic!

Bone Broth
Bone broth is the ultimate food for healing your gut and, in turn, healing your brain. This ancient food is full of health benefits, ranging from boosting the immune system, overcoming leaky gut, improving joint health and overcoming food allergies.

Its high levels of collagen help reduce intestinal inflammation, and healing amino acids keep the immune system functioning properly and help improve memory. Bone broth truly helps heal the body from the inside out, so I definitely recommend incorporating this into your diet whenever possible.

Broccoli
I know you probably hate to admit it, but your mom was right when she told you to eat your broccoli. It’s one of the best brain foods out there. Thanks to its high levels of vitamin K and choline, it will help keep your memory sharp.

It’s also loaded with vitamin C — in fact, just one cup provides you with 150% of your recommended daily intake. Its high-fibre levels mean that you’ll feel full quickly, too. Be sure you aren’t overcooking it and lightly steaming is the best method to maintain maximum nutrients.

Coconut Oil
“I got 99 problems — and coconut oil solved like 86 of them.”  Well its basically true as there’s almost nothing that coconut oil can’t help.

And when it comes to your brain, it’s full of benefits, too. Coconut oil works as a natural anti-inflammatory, suppressing cells responsible for inflammation. It can also help with memory loss as you age and destroy bad bacteria that hangs out in your gut (and we all know now that there is a definitely connection between gut and brain health).

Dark Chocolate
This is one of my personal favourite brain boosting foods. However, not all chocolate is created equal, and you have to get a high quality one in order to reap the benefits! Chocolate is chockfull of flavanols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart.

Most of the chocolate you see on supermarket shelves is highly processed with few benefits. The basic rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more health benefits it has. Skip milk and white chocolates and opt for a minimally processed dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa. This ensures you’ll get your choco fix along with the brain benefits! I love making my own chocolate at home with a simple recipe of melted coconut oil, cacao and your choice of nut butter to thicken it up, or you can try this recipe for hemp peanut butter cups.

Egg Yolks

Mother nature really knows what she’s doing when it comes to creating whole foods that are nutritionally balanced, and eggs are a perfect example. Egg yolks have gotten a bad rep in the last few years in relation to cholesterol, but people are finally starting to come around and eat the whole thing as nature intended it. Eggs are great for brain health, in fact, the yolks contain large amounts of choline, which helps in fetal brain development for pregnant women.

If you’ve kept away from eating whole eggs because of cholesterol concerns, there’s good news. Studies show that eating eggs has no effect on the cholesterol levels of healthy adults (it’s more so the foods that we typically accompany with eggs in a traditional breakfast) and might, in fact, help raise good cholesterol levels.

Once again, not all eggs are created equal and I highly recommend splurging a bit more to get “free range” (not run – as that word is just a marketing scheme) organic, and ideally local eggs whenever possible. Trust me, you will taste and see the difference as the eggs with higher nutritional value have a very deep orange/yellow colour.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Real extra virgin olive oil is truly a brain food. Thanks to the powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols that are found in the oil, it can help us improve learning and memory function.

As great as extra virgin olive oil is, remember that it’s not a great option for cooking at high temperatures, as it hydrogenizes and begins decomposing at high temperatures. The best way to get your fill is by eating it cold or at room temperature. Oils and fats that are better for cooking include coconut oil and grass fed butter or ghee.

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WRITTEN BY:

Brianna Persall is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, yoga instructor and co-founder of Well Daily. After studying design and working in the creative marketing industry for a few years, and facing her own personal health issues, she resorted to holistic approaches for healing. As she discovered the healing powers of food as medicine, she wanted to further share with the world holistic healing through Well Daily. Brianna integrates yoga as a healing modality through her classes at music festivals and corporate wellness programs.

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